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A Small Indiscretion

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  8,216 ratings  ·  1,093 reviews
With the emotional complexity of Everything I Never Told You and the psychological suspense of The Girl on the Train, O. Henry Prize winner Jan Ellison delivers a brilliantly paced, beautifully written debut novel about one woman's reckoning with a youthful mistake.

Named one of the best books of the year by San Francisco Chronicle

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak fu
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published January 20th 2015 by Random House
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Average rating 3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,216 ratings  ·  1,093 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
New Update: 3/22/2017: This book is $1.99 Kindle special today. If you have not read it --Its GREAT! It takes place in S.F. and Paris. Its my experience --that these 'special' Kindle deals --got back up to higher prices again soon. (it happened with "His Bloody Project" > one day it was $1.99 --a few days later it was $14.00+).

I LOVE THIS story!

Update: $1.99 Kindle special today!!!
It's a STEAL!!!!!!


I was fully absorbed in every detail of this novel!
Every minute I was away from t
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2015
I almost, almost, ALMOST abandoned this. I didn’t care for the way the narrative was presented, with the protagonist Annie speaking through a letter to her young adult son, who appears to have gone missing. There was a lot of jumping around in time and different locations with different players, and I began to get twitchy and impatient. I hardly ever abandon books – I have a strong Puritan “let’s see this through” vein running through me – so I always check my Goodreads friends’ comments to see ...more
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
What a great debut!

In this engaging story, Annie Black documents her tumultuous young life in a letter of confession to her young-adult son while he lay in a coma, (no spoiler here) and an interesting life story it is.

While Annie made many poor decisions during her youth, and yet another really asinine one later in life, she actually did make some good choices too that she includes among her memories and regrets.

Complete with a couple of good twists, a mystery to solve and an obsessive old love

Mar 27, 2015 rated it liked it
OK. I think that I will open the proverbial can of worms here. Getting the squirmy little critters back into the can will be a bit of an undertaking.

Some are quite taken with this book. Some, like me, not as much.

Annie Black has led quite the life going back and forth across the pond since she was nineteen years old. She sowed her wild oats and they have come home to roost, unfortunately. Jan Ellison takes us from Annie's dappled past into her present "married life with children". Ellison uses
Iris P
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Iris P by: Elyse Waters
A Small Indiscretion

Jan Ellison photo JanEllisonAuthor_zpsjkanvvwu.jpg
Jan Ellison, the author

"I suppose unrequited love is the hardest kind to shed because it is not really love at all. It is a half-love, and we are forever stomping around trying to get hold of the other half.”

Why would a middle age woman with a happy marriage, wonderful children, and a succesful career risk it all to pursue an unfulfilled, unrequited romantic interest of her past?
This is the main question we are left to ponder after reading this beautifully written, d
Cathrine ☯️
What was it with me and this book? Was it merely really good or was it speaking with me as a friend to my own history of small indiscretions, the decisions I made about them. All right, all right, all right—big indiscretions too.
For sure I loved the writing. It was a page turner but not because I couldn’t put it down, rather because of the way it unfolded with tension, confession, regret, soul-searching, and loving too, going back and forth from the past to present over a twenty year period
Jennifer Masterson
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.75 Stars.

Once again I'm late to the party so I will just share my feelings.

I enjoyed this book. This was a definite page turner for me! A good debut novel. The only problem I had with "A Small Indiscretion" was that I was kind of confused as to what was going on in the beginning. I stayed with it and I eventually got into it. The back and forth in time in this book is not all that smooth either.

Annie is not the most likable character but I understood her. We all make mistakes when we're youn
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5+ Stars. Loved this author! Thanks Elyse...
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, library
This was a really pleasant surprise from yet another novel with lower-than-stellar ratings that I happened to love. Although the narrative had a subtle tone, there were many complex and compelling topics involving obsession, neediness, loss, love and forgiveness to name a few. It is a coming of age story of sorts, but also a portrayal of how the choices made in the past can come back to haunt you. I found the main character sympathetic and her actions believable considering her upbringing, but I ...more
Angela M
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it

I felt as if I was looking in someone's window and eavesdropping on a conversation that is not meant for me or more specifically reading letters that were not meant for me to read - yet I wanted to know what happened both in Annie Black 's past and in her future and I wanted to know what would happen to this family after her past catches up with her .

The narrative is a letter to her son , Robbie and many times it seems so matter of fact, almost devoid of emotion at times while it represents a co
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it


I absolutely, positively adored this book! Oddly enough, I had an extremely difficult time articulating exactly why – until I understood my love for this story was because I was so emotionally invested in it. The writing is enchanting and hypnotic, perhaps even seductive, enveloping me in a warm embrace of lusciously soothing emotions. The magical, addictive prose invoked deep emotional responses which kept me turning page after page after page after page ...

My engagem
Diane S ☔
Jun 11, 2014 rated it liked it
A woman's past comes back to haunt her present, or secrets of the past are exposed. A common enough theme in novels, but this one is presented in a unique way; as a letter to her son who is twenty and is not to be found. I had to think about my reaction to this book and why I had trouble connecting with the story. First of all, I neither liked nor disliked the main characters, I felt a distance from them. I think the format of the novel, kept me from feeling the closeness to the characters that ...more
May 03, 2015 rated it liked it
3 stars!

**Thank you to Random House publishing for providing me with this book free of charge through a Goodreads Giveaway.**

"I suppose unrequited love is the hardest kind to shed because it is not really love at all. It is a half-love, and we are forever stomping around trying to get hold of the other half."

At 19, Annie Black is spending her winter in London, drinking herself into oblivion and getting tangled in many complicated relationships. 21 years later, she is married to Jonathan, living
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, mystery
A Small Indiscretion is presented as a letter from the main character to her son, who is absent for one reason or another during almost the whole narration. The gimmick works to a point. The book works to a point.

(view spoiler)
Feb 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This compelling story is part family drama, part mystery. Well-paced, filling in the blanks slowly so that the story unravels in a way that kept me engaged and always hoping to squeeze in a few more pages throughout the busy day, this is my kind of contemporary fiction: a bit of a stretch yet somehow completely believable.

This story is compulsively readable with many beautifully constructed sentences, paragraphs and pages. Layered, descriptive writing brings it to life...writing that I found to
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-audible
****3.5 STARS****I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book even though I squirmed and held my breath over the narrator's continuous passivity and the poor decisions that she often made in her personal affairs. Maybe it cut too close to the bone for me. :)
Jo Anne B
Do not waste your time on this one. The only reason I read it is because the description said if you liked Girl on the Train then you'd like this one too. That could not have been farther from the truth. That is such an insult to Girl on the Train. I loved that book, especially the main character. I did not like the main character in this book at all. Actually I didn't like any of the characters in this book. None of them seemed to have any morals or self-restraint. They were all self-absorbed a ...more
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. This is one of the best debuts I have read this year. I loved it.

Here's the situation: Annie is writing her memories of her younger self spent in London. There, she worked in an office for Malcolm. Malcolm is married to Louise. Louise is having an affair with Patrick, with Malcolm's blessing. Malcolm falls in love with Annie, who falls in love with Patrick. No one really wants Malcolm, and Patrick seems to care for no one. The odd foursome takes a Christmas trip to Paris, where the si
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a cleverly written novel that I could not put down... totally absorbing. The second person letter style worked wonderfully in capturing the reasons behind choices that were made, though it was sometimes confusing with the jumping around time periods. I do think that if someone were to indeed write a letter about their past this would be true to form. Interesting example of how split second decision can have long standing consequences. Wonderful debut.... I really look forward to reading ...more
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book, it kept me very involved , quite the page turner.
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Annie is a girl who looks around at her life at nineteen years old and decides she wants something different. Something else. Something more.

So she takes $200 in cash and gets herself from her hometown in California to her estranged father's house in Maine, and then on to London. Living in a hostel, she quickly gets a job as a secretary with Malcolm, a married, established (read: older) engineer. Malcolm and his wife Louise have an "arrangement," in that Malcolm procured Patrick, a lean, sexual
Doug Bradshaw
It was a quick easy read for me and I enjoyed the story, a little bit unusual in that it was written as a letter to her (the protagonist's) son to explain some of her history and thoughts about who he is and why. I could compare it to The Girl on the Train a little bit, because the main character is a young girl trying to make it alone in London and starts drinking too much, and ends up having several relationships with men and other things that she wishes she wouldn't have done.

There are excell
This book was engrossing. It was so well written!!! Loved this debut by Jan Ellison. It was suspenseful, captured my interest the whole way through and kept me guessing.

The only thing that kept this from being a 5-star read for me was Annie, the main character and storyteller. Put frankly, I hated her. There wasn’t one thing I liked about her. She was one of the most self-absorbed characters I’ve ever encountered. I found her treatment of others to be insensitive and often cruel. And the fact th
Freda Mans-Labianca
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I can see why it was an Oprah's Book Club Editor's Pick. It's about family, love and the power of holding back. There were many twists and turns to get you to the end, but somehow, they all made sense.
The story was brilliantly written and told.
A mother writing to her child as a lengthy explanation of sorts. It was a unique way to read a story, as well as take it in. It pulled you in, almost like you had found the letter and were secretly reading it to yourself.
I loved this book! Even durin
Dec 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
Review also found at

2.5 stars

I received an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher Random House via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is January 20th 2015.

This is going to be a difficult story for me to review as I struggled with identifying with any of the characters in the story. This may cause my thoughts to fall slightly on the critical side when I am still undecided if the story deserves it.

This at the
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I received an advance copy from the publisher through Netgalley. There's something about the cover that originally threw me off, and I assumed that this would be a cheesy historical novel. But after reading a few reviews, I realized that this was in a fact a book of contemporary fiction. And once I started reading, I quickly got really absorbed by the story and the writing. Ellison has constructed a good story, and had done a great job telling it. It is told as a second person narrative by a mot ...more
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Jennifer Masterson
This is an emotional story shared in an intimate way. It is told in hindsight- a settled, mother of three is looking back at her nineteen year old self. Currently, her life has blown apart. As she begins to unpack her long ago memories we understand how much her past has informed her current situation.

Other thoughts:

The descriptions of San Francisco and the surrounding area are beautiful. As are the scenes set in London and Paris.

The reveal is somewhat anti-climatic and I suspect most will gue
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: random-house
A deceptively simple premise -- Annie makes mistakes at age 19. Twenty years later those mistakes catch up to her with dire consequences. Avid readers will see the plot developments coming, but there still something quite engaging about this debut novel. I loved that it was mysterious without being a thriller. I loved the time jumps and slow reveals of important facts. I loved the unreliability of its narrator Annie as she writes her disjointed confession. Most of all, I love the play of memory ...more
Lori Clark
If you are looking for a quick read filled with action and page turning exciting drama ... this is probably not the book for you. However. If you are seeking a book that is extremely well written with prose that pulls you into the story as though you are there, experiencing it along side the characters, then you really should consider reading A Small Indiscretion. I loved the author's nearly lyrical writing. I felt so caught up in the story that it stayed with me for days after I read the last w ...more
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is an OK story that has moments of success and moments of failure. I was never tempted to stop reading, but the "surprise" element was not any surprise to me since I unraveled it fairly early on. It is too neatly tied at the end for my tastes, but that is why this kind of book is seldom my choice.

One of the least appealing parts of this book is the voice. Annie Black is writing this story to her son, Robbie, which might work for explaining the past...and does essentially since those are th
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52 weeks, 52 books: Week 2016.7: A Small Indiscretion 4 46 Feb 19, 2016 07:32AM  

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Jan Ellison is the USA Today bestselling author of the debut novel, A Small Indiscretion, which was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year. A graduate of Stanford, Jan left college for a year at nineteen to study French in Paris, work in an office in London, and try her hand at writing. Twenty years later, her notebooks from that year became the germ of A Small Indiscretion.

  Jan spent tw

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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
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“Denial, as any addict in recovery will tell you, is not defined as knowing something and pretending you don’t; it is failing to see it at all.” 17 likes
“I suppose unrequited love is the hardest kind to shed because it is not really love at all. It is a half-love, and we are forever stomping around trying to get hold of the other half.” 11 likes
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