The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes

Still thinking today about getting pointers from the books you read to help improve your own writing. One such book I read recently was The Amber Fury, which made me think about the need to have a plot and situation that is essentially convincing and potentially possible.

The Amber Fury was, for me flawed in this respect and therefore irritating.

I’d read some great reviews of this book and really looked forward to reading it.   The premise is that Alex, a successful theatre producer in London, flees back to her university town of Edinburgh after a tragic incident kills her fiancé Luke. The story is then woven around the aftermath of the killing; why is Alex apparently spying on someone and why is one of her pupils stalking her?

The basic idea is good and the writing is evocative. However, as a former school teacher myself I find it odd that Alex would be allowed, without any teaching qualifications or previous experience, to teach vulnerable teenagers in a PRU (pupil referral unit, ie a unit which usually caters for pupils who are difficult or need special attention which cannot be provided in the normal school environment). This is because she is an old friend of the principal (odd rationale!).

Alex then proceeds to select Greek tragedies for a literature class of fifteen year olds with histories of violence, abuse, challenging behaviour – a very dangerous choice for such a class. She then spends lessons discussing character and situation without apparently actually reading the text with them in class, but expecting them to do this for homework, which of course most of them don’t do (surprise!). The issues she makes them discuss are contentious and unrealistic, and the long passages of dialogue presented as lessons, unconvincing.

I understand that the author is a specialist in Greek theatre and  I felt that it was really the author’s passion for Greek tragedy that drove this novel, rather than a real connection with the story she was weaving. I didn’t find the denouement unexpected although it was flagged up as a mystery and the plot seemed to point to a surprising resolution. Disappointing, I’m afraid.

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