Bibliophile's Reviews > Apple Tree Yard

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
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Jun 13, 2013

really liked it
Read in June, 2013

A surprisingly original and disturbing novel about a woman who embarks on an affair with disastrous consequences. Surprising, considering the description makes it sound like an average nail-biter when in fact it turns out to be much more. From the very beginning we are told that the main character is on trial as a direct result of her affair. Gradually, the events leading up to the trial are revealed.

Yvonne is a successful middle-aged geneticist, highly respected in her field and happily married with two grown children. It may seem strange that she would risk all this for illicit sex with a stranger who won't even tell her his name, but little by little, it becomes clear that neither her work nor marriage are as perfect as they seem. Doughty masterfully reveals the small resentments simmering under the surface. At one point, Yvonne recalls that she and her husband decided to combine childrearing with working on their PhDs, and dryly concludes: "Guy completed his PhD in three years. Mine took seven. Funny that." Also, kindly Guy does a very shitty thing which makes Yvonne's infidelity seem kind of lame.

In her role as an authority in academia she wields a certain power, yet is propositioned by a young male student who offers sexual favours in return for a training position. And the Awful Thing That Happens is so awful I could barely keep reading (view spoiler) .

Doughy seems to say that no matter how successful or independent you are as a woman, you are still just a woman in a man's world, at the mercy of a thouroughly sexist society. She does this brutally, believably and unapologetically. Yvonne is a rare, nuanced character bound to be disliked by readers who need their heroines to be lovable. At times, I found her behaviour frustrating (view spoiler), but I never stopped rooting for her.

It is suspenseful, but perhaps too dark for those looking for a quick thriller, or rather, dark for the wrong reasons. There is very little blood and gore here, yet this is one of the most nightmarish, frightening novels I've read in a long time. The horribly depressing anecdote of an experiment with mother and baby chimps almost made me lose all faith in mankind (and apes). Eager to read more by this author.
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Reading Progress

06/06/2013 marked as: to-read
06/11/2013 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Marta Català great review. I quite agree with you. I thought it would be a light thriller and... far from that! demoledor!!


Bibliophile Marta wrote: "great review. I quite agree with you. I thought it would be a light thriller and... far from that! demoledor!!"

Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! I was quite shaken by it.


Kathy Your review is perceptive and well written. I have one observation about the comment you made (which had a Spoiler Alert attached to it, where you state: "[ Not leaving Guy after his affair, mooning over Mark despite his aloofness"], I think his aloofness was part of the attaction. It was sort of an "intermittent reward," which is more powerful than a continuous reward. Occasionally he would throw her a bone by doing something which could be interpreted as affectionate (such as putting his hand over hers when she was upset), and that would trick her into thinking that perhaps there was some real emotion there. If you've ever been involved in a relationship where the love object occasionally gives you a taste of what you are craving, you'll know what I mean.

About the fact that she stayed with her husband after learning that he had an affair, I took that as a sign of strength in her. She was confident enough of her husband's love that she was able to move past her pain. I remember thinking that I wish I were that type of person, someone who doesn't get mired in the jealousy. I admired her ability to put that affair in perspective and not dwell on it too much. Of course, in retrospect, perhaps she also used it as an excuse to engage in her own affair.


Bibliophile Kathy wrote: "Your review is perceptive and well written. I have one observation about the comment you made (which had a Spoiler Alert attached to it, where you state: "[ Not leaving Guy after his affair, moonin..."

Thank you Kathy. You make some interesting points. I'm sure you're right about the mechanisms behind that kind of relationship. My frustration (if I remember correctly) came from not being able to relate. Same with the husband's affair - the betrayal of trust (rather than jealousy) would be too much for me.

It's certainly a thought-provoking novel.


Stephen Goldenberg I have tried googling the chimp experiment and, although there are examples of some cruel experiments I can't find a reference for this particularly horrific one.


Bibliophile Stephen wrote: "I have tried googling the chimp experiment and, although there are examples of some cruel experiments I can't find a reference for this particularly horrific one."

Well thank goodness for small mercies. I don't have the guts to google animal experiments :(


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