Jane Ronson is the epitome of a dutiful, devoted wife and mother. She has, with grit and grace, supported her husband, Colin, through the scandals and setbacks that have dogged his career as the Governor of New York State. After years in her restrictive role as the governor's wife, Jane achieves her own success as a writer, and is offered a publishing deal for her debut novel. This exciting news is overshadowed by Colin's sudden death under mysterious circumstances that eerily echo events that unfold in Jane's novel, making her the primary person of interest in the investigation.
As the police question the Ronson family to try to establish what happened on the night of Colin's death, it becomes increasingly apparent that everyone is keeping secrets - some to protect Colin, some to protect themselves. All of them to protect the Ronson family name.
As Jane's and Colin's pasts emerge in the course of the investigation, the truth becomes increasingly elusive and disturbing.
Honestly I feel like my words won't do this book justice, But I'll try anyways. It was one of those "sorry I can't adult today" I'm to busy trying to read fast enough books. I could not put this book down! It was absolutely beautiful written and such a gripping read. You guys know I'm a romance reader at heart but this psychological thriller ticked all the boxes. Do yourself a favor go and put this book on your must read asap TBR, You won't regret it.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All thoughts are my own.
I'm always up for a twisted thriller, especially one that promises messy relationship dynamics. But another reason I was so excited to read this particular book: it's written by a local South African author!
Alex van Tonder writes brilliantly. The chapters are short, the sentences have a strong and powerful rhythm, and the characters' voices are clear and distinct. The prose is tight and dramatic, without giving into melodrama. There's also a dark and unsettling poetry about each line which captivated me.
The story is exceptionally well structured. The police's interviews with the characters after the murder are interspersed in short bursts amidst the trajectory of Jane's life - from when she's a child to the days after her husband's death - and every chapter ends with some tantalising detail, reveal, or twist. It keeps you reading. It's so compelling and disturbing with all the right secrets kept until the perfect moment.
I also love that we start with Jane's childhood and get to see how she grew up and how those events shaped her life thereafter. Every incident and interaction is so thoroughly considered. The way she's raised and what she endures at that age is so integral to her adulthood, and I love how the author mines those experiences to give context and motivation to later parts of Jane's story. It's such a rich novel in the way that it's packed full of backstory, history, and specific incidents.
I can't say I love any of the characters, but I certainly appreciate how well they're written. Their personalities are vivid and compelling (whether or not they get much page time) and their dialogue is entertaining and individualistic. Jane is a relatable and well drawn heroine, too, and her character development is excellent. That's another point I want to make: the novel follows her life from when she's a little girl to when she's a middle-aged woman, and we get to see not only how she changes, but how the people around her change. I love that. The characters evolve - sometimes for good, sometimes for bad - and their circumstances and attitudes change as they go through life. They go through jobs and partners and friendships, each one altering who they are as individual people. I so enjoyed seeing this evolution of their lives.
The book also explores some profound and important issues. Mental illness, abuse, and rape are crucial themes in this story, and the author isn't afraid to deeply examine the effects of trauma on the characters' lives, relationships, and perspectives. As a victim of abuse and rape, Jane's struggle is heartbreaking. It's not always easy to read, but it handled so well. We also get a satisfying ending with regards to her suffering.
A Walk At Midnight is a powerful and impeccably structured thriller, riveting the reader from start to finish and shining a spotlight on important topics such as sexual assault and abuse of power.
A well written book with characters that are so well depicted, they feel real. It was hard to put down, I was so invested in the characters. As a feminist researcher, I highly recommend it as a social commentary on the horror of domestic violence. A toast to South African writers doing great things!
A Walk at Midnight by local author Alex van Tonder sheds the spotlight on abuse and sexual assault against women. It’s brilliantly written and an important book to put on your reading or book club list.
A Walk at Midnight is a fantastic narrative of what an infinite number of women go through daily. It’s about abuse against women; about powerful men getting away with abusing and sexually assaulting women, purely because they can afford fancy lawyers and PR consultants to sweep things under the carpet and silence these women’s voices. It’s about our broken society.
It’s beautifully and brutally articulated in this book and wrapped in the story of Jane Ronson and finding out who murdered her husband. Smart, independent, slightly off-centre Jane, who was told her entire life to change who she was and to shrink the dreams that she had for her life. In addition to watching her mother’s abuse by her father, being raped at 19 by a “boy with kind blue eyes” at a university party when she was drunk, changed her life forever. Jane goes on to marry a man that her parents would approve of, became the dutiful wife of a powerful man and the perfect mother to their two children. But, behind closed doors she was repeatedly beaten into being someone her husband wanted her to be, her independence, personality and voice silenced and taken away. There’s a couple of sentences in the book that stood out for me, the below in particular.
“I think of how many times I have died for the man in the wooden box to live and the words I have used to make it okay. I want to tell everyone not to cry. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Trash to trash.”
A Walk at Midnight is an uncomfortable read at times that made me think of myself and my female friends. Every single one of us has a story in our past of either being sexually assaulted or being physically, mentally or verbally abused by a boyfriend, boss or parent. My generation of women didn’t talk about these things, we were taught to keep it in, push it away and hide it in the darkest corners of our minds to never think of or speak of. When we were sexually assaulted at parties, we didn’t see it as that, because surely it was our fault for drinking. When boyfriends were passive aggressive, snapped at us, or sulked, it was our fault because we shouldn’t have said or done something that we knew would set them off. It was never the man’s fault, nor would they take responsibility for their actions. We would smile and pretend everything was great, hiding behind masks. The time for pretense and protecting our perpetrators is over.
I was in a relationship with a man who would sulk when he didn’t get his way, who would, in subtle ways, deter me from going after my dreams, would make fun of things I loved doing and sometimes just made me feel silly for liking and doing certain things. I bit my tongue so many times or didn’t go after something I wanted, because I knew he wouldn’t approve or would make a snarky remark or would get pissy – for lack of a better word. It was worse when he was drunk. Once, he even told me that I emasculated him. I shrunk myself so that I wouldn’t dull his shine or take up more space than him. I never saw this when I was in it, but it was a pretty oppressive relationship. Thankfully, we haven’t been together for a long time.
I am happy to report that the man who I am proud to call my life partner, is the kindest, most amazing human being. Not just to me, but to everyone in his life. He’s my biggest cheerleader, always encouraging me to dream big and go after what I want. A supportive partner that shines with you makes the world of difference.
We’re making progress, however, as women and as a society. It’s become a lot more normalised for women to speak about their trauma and abuse than it’s ever been. This means that perpetrators have less places to hide. Unfortunately, even though the spotlight is on abuse and femicide at the moment, there’s still very little done to the perpetrators and to stop these crimes being committed.
It is my hope that many more books will be written on the subject, that more women speak out about their traumas and abuse and that offenders think twice before laying a hand on women.
A Walk at Midnight is an important must-read for men and women.
I was quickly absorbed with this story and it's hectic subject matter and found myself racing through it to find out what happened but was a tad disappointed at the end as I thought it was a bit far-fetched.