When it comes to creating characters, the easy path is to go with the well worn 2D model. The harder path is to subvert the audience’s expectations by flipping those characters on their heads.
The setup of Sarah Pinborough’s 2017 novel, Behind Her Eyes, is a love triangle. Louise is a single, working mother who meets David on a night out. The night ends with a kiss that gives her hope that there is a romantic future after divorce. The next day, she nearly runs over Adele, who is new in town. What starts out as getting together for coffee turns into a friendship. But Adele is married to David, who is Louise’s new boss.
The only word to describe what Louise is about to get into is trouble.
The only word to describe this book is wow. Pinborough is part author and part magician. She makes us think that we know how the story will end. But the card she has in her left hand is completely unexpected and jaw dropping. From a feminist angle, I appreciated the shades of grey that she injected into her narrative. Normally the center of a love triangle in a heterosexual relationship is a woman with a man at each end. The inversion is not just the gender of the leads, but the portrayal of the women. Louise is not just the bad girl homewrecker. Adele is much more than the good little wife, waiting for David to come home at the end of the day.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
P.S. I also highly recommend the Netflix adaptation. It is as good, if not better than it’s literary predecessor.