Cover Image: Fragile

Fragile

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Member Reviews

I’m a huge, huge fan of Sarah Hilary’s writing, having loved her DI Marnie Rome series, which I’m hoping Sarah Hilary will return to at some point. I was really intrigued to see that she was releasing a new standalone novel. Fragile is her latest book, and it is an intense, beautifully written psychological thriller. 

We meet Nell, who has recently applied work for a Robert Wilder at his home in London, Starling Villas and eventually becomes his housekeeper. Nell is a former foster child, but lately, she has been living on the streets. But Nell also has a dark secret, and there is a reason why she has applied for the position at Starling Villas. 
Ever since I read Sarah Hilary’s debut, Someone Else’s Skin, she has been an auto-buy author for me. I always recommend her work when people ask me to recommend them a good book to read. I connected to Nell straight away. I wanted to know why she specifically wanted to come to Starling Villas and what it had to do with her childhood. Sarah Hilary builds on the atmosphere as the novel progresses and things become darker and more intense, particularly when Robert’s wife arrives on the scene.

Robert, who Nell works for, is a very strange character. I did find him unnerving as well when Nell firsts comes to his house, and I wanted to learn more about who he was. I felt fearful for Nell when she first arrived as I wasn’t sure what she was getting herself into here. Any minute I kept thinking that something terrible was going to happen to her, or she was going to uncover a dark secret. It’s clear from the outset that she is here on a mission and she is determined to see it through. I wanted to find out what it was she wanted to achieve by coming here. 

Sarah Hilary’s writing draws you into the story from the very first page. As the plot unfolds, we begin to learn more about Nell and her childhood. Sarah Hilary reveals what Nell went through when she was a child living in foster care, and it makes for gripping reading. We know that something terrible happened when she was living in foster care, but it’s only when we reach the chapters, do we understand the full, terrible truth. 

If you haven’t yet discovered Sarah Hilary’s writing, this is the perfect time to do so. Fragile is a haunting, exceptionally well written novel. I highly recommend it!
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This is a superbly written, well laid out, hauntingly beautiful book that I really, really enjoyed reading. I will definitely be looking out for more titles by this author
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devoured this novel in short order, not only is it a beautifully plotted emotional mystery, with some brilliantly evocative writing and layered, memorable characters but it has such a kick ass ending that I sobbed for a good while when I’d finished it.

Sarah Hilary’s writing super power is in her exploration of social issues within the narrative, letting the characters shine through whilst they remind you that so many live a difficult, imperfect life. Never preaching but always aware, the journeys that unfold in all her stories are utterly compelling and intense- Fragile has this in spades and it is a joy to read.

Fragile digs deep into the vagaries of human nature and how we are affected by the things that happen to us and the people we connect with. As such it is an excellent read, entertaining yes, but so much more.

Highly recommended.
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Nell Ballard was given away when her mother met a man who wanted children of his own, and didn’t want to marry a woman and care for someone else’s daughter, creating a merged family. This is how she ended up in the care of a single ambivalent foster mother.
Philosophically in her later life Nell, thought it was perhaps better to be loved and needed as a foster child rather than not being loved as a birth child. However, when you read this story you will soon realise that neither of her ‘mothers’ were actually good for Nell, who spent her entire life looking for someone who would chose her, cherish her and shower her with love and kindness. She grew up literally a slave to this ambition.
First she was rejected, next she was used as a live in surrogate mother, taking care of the young children happily because they needed and loved her. Her life was going well at this point - until enigmatic Joe came into the home in care and she fell deeply in teenage love and lust for him. Tragically her life changes one blistering summer day when she and Joe steal away from the house for some privacy. From the security of living in a family home in foster care as a young carer herself, to being a runaway with a less than perfect boyfriend called Joe. She thought she was in love, but here again she was being abused and used.
I really liked the beginning of the story but somehow or other it ran out of impetus. From that stage the novel lost its way. Joe left her and she needed to get a job with the facility of a live-in deal. This next phase of the story picked up a bit when she became the housekeeper for a mysterious academic called Robin Wilder, who lived alone in his inherited house called Starling Villas. This arrangement was almost like a return to her life as it was in foster care. She had to obey the house rules and work long and hard for her keep and wages. She didn’t mind. She had a home again. The whole section of the novel centred in Starling Villas was dark and brooding. Something was off and danger was in the air. It was like a ticking bomb, just waiting to be detonated.
This new novel from Sarah Hilary is a standalone novel. I have read most of her serialised novels which are really exciting and full of twists and turns. She is a terrific and prolific author with loads of talent and ability. I felt this deviation from her tried and tested formats was nowhere near as successful and this is definitely not as tense, thrilling and unputdownable as her other stories. I liked the cliff hanger and the themes of manipulation, secrecy, fear and pervading evil, but the ending did not feel very satisfying.  N 
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from publisher Pan Macmillan through my membership of NetGalley and I would like to thank them for my copy, sent out to me in return for an honest review. For me this was a challenging read and for the reasons given I award it a 3* review.
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The description of this book hooked me in, so I guess I had high hopes when I started it.

I found it quite difficult to get in to, but persevered and enjoyed the thrill of the twists and turns as the truth starts to mount. I'm pleased I've read it, but I'm not sure I would reread it. Not just yet, anyway!
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Fragile is an extremely sad but compelling story that is easily one of the best phycological thrillers to be released this year,
It's plot is well paced and draws you in making you feel for the main protagonist who has had a pretty heart-breaking life,
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A beautifully told tale of how childhood trauma so often relates to damaged adults, unable to shake off the shackles of the past no matter how hard they try.

I felt so desperately sorry for Nell and also for Joe. Not at all for Meagan Flack - yet in her own way she saved so many little ones from a much worse fate.

The story is dark and brooding, there is a constant air of it all being about to go wrong - even when things are good, or at least steady, there is a sense of darkness lurking.

I found Fragile to be deeply engaging and I wished so much for Nell and Joe to be saved...

As a long time fan of Sarah Hilary, I was delighted to read this book.
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Really loved this. A delicious slice of modern gothic with shades of Daphne Du Maurier and a thread of hope running through it.
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I absolutely adore Sarah's Marnie Rome series and I was intrigued by the idea of her first standalone.  However, it didn't quite click with me and I didn't enjoy it as much as the Marnie Rome series.  It was enjoyable, but I wasn't gripped
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A darkly twisted tale that feels slightly old fashioned and modern at the same time, this clever read focuses on Nell Ballard and her new job at Starling Villas, working for the quiet Robin Wilder. A runaway and former foster child, a young woman who has seen plenty of unpleasant things in her life, she seizes the role quickly and soon is immersed in Robin’s ordered but unusual life. However, Nell hasn’t been forgotten by the people she left behind, people who want to find her and won’t let her new circumstances get in their way. Fragile is an important title for the novel, there’s plenty about the plot that requires the reader to read carefully to pick up on all the subtle twists and turns.
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A dark psychological thriller. This had the feel of an old fashioned mystery whilst the tale it told was thoroughly modern and contemporary. 
Good plot lines and engaging characters. All in all a well crafted and beautifully written book which flowed beautifully. 
Definitely worth adding to the shelves
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A new book from Sarah Hilary is always a cause of excitement for me. This time though the new book, Fragile, is a stand-alone novel and not part of her enthralling DI Marnie Rome series. 

Hilary's writing drew me in immediately. She has a brilliant way of conveying her story, painting a picture of it in the mind's eye, without being verbose. Her writing is wonderful and I found myself stopping to take stock of some of her turns of phrase. 

As for the story itself, it covers a plethora of themes including foster children & homes, drug addiction, homelessness, a missing child, and sexual abuse. I mention all these are fair warning to those who might find such content triggering. Yet Hilary covers these issues with her usual care - they are intrinsic to the story and not overdone or gratuitous. 

The plot of this story kept me hooked, I needed to uncover the secrets, find the truth, and decipher who we could trust! I immediately liked Nell, our central character, from whose perspective most of the story is told. We jump back and forth in time with Nell as we try to piece together her history and uncover the truth of the situation she finds herself in.  I like that Hilary threw in the odd chapter from another character, a different perspective, keeping us on our toes.

I am a huge fan of Sarah Hilary's work, and while I was determined not to draw comparison with her series, I do have to say that I didn't enjoy this quite as much as her other novels. That said, this is a diversion from her police procedural norm, so to compare is really rather unfair of me. I did enjoy Fragile though, it kept me reading, kept me guessing, and gave me another chance to savour Hilary's writing.
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This book did sound good but for some reason I just could not get into it. I didn't finish it. Sorry this one just isn't for me
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This was a struggle for me I found it hard to connect and difficult to read at times it was just "Strange" not my cup of tea.
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Sarah Hilary created a hypnotic and claustrophobic world into which we are invited via the front door of the Starling Villas. Reluctantly we follow a runaway foster girl Nell who escaped with her best friend Joe from the home in Wales. The place was run by Megan, a woman lacking empathy and understanding. Yet we are not quite sure whether we truly are within the realism of a London house, steeped in darkness and mystery, and owned by the enigmatic Dr Robin Wilder. Or is it all imagination? The cinematic quality of the writing, the gothic atmosphere of the place hiding many secrets and the growing drama of creepiness make the novel so intense and gut-wrenching. 
Fragile indeed presents fragility in many forms and brings this delicate state of emotions into our attention. It balances aspects of the real-life abuse and impacts on the young people in care who are not completely aware of their own paths in life, and struggle to process experiences that they have had, while subconsciously learning what love in many guises might mean, and whom to trust. Clash between harsh brutal reality and Nell’s inner world take this story into the Victorian spectre of the difficult social issues such as homelessness, neglect, violence. Problems that have not vanished in spite of development of modern technology and apparent advances of social care. The intensity of feelings and the lingering sense of impending doom, beautifully and sensitively written plot, and weaving delicate Japanese motives into the quiet tragedy of shame, guilt and passion are outstanding. A psychological thriller to be savoured.
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A dark, beautifully written gothic tale reminiscent of Du Maurier. Nell and Joe are foster children under the care of Megan Flack, who's more interested in money than caring for them. The spectre of abuse hangs heavy over their lives. 
A well constructed book detailing the darker sides of human nature.
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A tragic story told through the eyes of Nell who has run away from her foster home in Wales with Joe to London.  She's watches Joe as he disappears into a house and manages to get herself a housekeepers job with the hope of finding him.  They both carry  adrak secret from wales which weighs them down in different ways.  A story of loss, revenge, relationships and grief
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Many thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for a free Advanced Review Copy of this book.

I enjoyed this tale of neglect, intrigue, lying, deceit, and a desperate fight for survival.

Nell and Joe grow up together in a foster home, run by Meagan--more interested in money than actually looking after the kids placed under her care. Nell becomes the mother figure for them all, and even at just eight-years-old, runs the house in all aspects. All while dodging Meagan's fists and cruel taunts.

Then, one summer, tragedy strikes, and everything changes. Eventually, Nell and Joe run away. They end up homeless, hungry, and cold on the streets of London, and do anything they must to stay alive.

After a few twists and turns, Nell finds herself working for an eccentric-seeming guy in Starlling Villas ... itself a strange and forebidding buidling in the midst of the city. For various reasons, Nell feels trapped and unable to leave, even when events take an alarming turn.

I found the characterisation and world building well done and the plot intriguing. The narrative flowed nicely.

A few lines stood out in particular for me:

Back at the beginning, Meagan thought Nell was like the sea. Wild and choppybut you could learn its tide, chart its patterns. That summer, she'd started to see the girl was more like their precious pool. Deep and treacherous, full of caves where currents flowed to an ancient rhythm, stealing through the spaces in th stone, taking fish and rocks and anything lost, sucking it into a place no one could ever follow or find.

and

'Yes,' Carolyn said, 'lovely,' as if she were mispronouncing ghastly.

and

If Robin Wilder imagined his wife's stones only skipped the surface of my skin, he had no idea how deep I ran, what fears and furies I felt.

This psychological thriller gripped me from beginning to end. I would have preferred a more concrete ending, but it was good nonetheless. Fragile gets a solid 4 stars from me.


***

NOTE ON RATINGS: I consider a 3-star rating a positive review. Picky about which books I give 5 stars to, I reserve this highest rating for the stories I find stunning and which moved me.

5 STARS: IT WAS AMAZING! I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN! — Highly Recommended.
4 STARS: I WOULD PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER — Go read this book.
3 STARS: IT WAS GOOD! — An okay read. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it.
2 STARS: I MAY HAVE LIKED A FEW THINGS —Lacking in some areas: writing, characterisation, and/or problematic plot lines.
1 STAR: NOT MY CUP OF TEA —Lots of issues with this book.
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DNF'd at 40% 
This is a case of the wrong book, wrong time because the writing is excellent. However, I just couldn't engage with the plot or the characters in the slightest. 

My thanks go to the publishers and Net Galley for the advance copy in return for an honest review, and hopefully, I will return to the book in the future.
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This book was incredible powerful and the writing was pretty exceptional, a refreshing style unravelling child neglect and brokenness. 

Sarah Hillary wrote some excellent descriptions of Wales and London and whilst the characters were not likeable at all with fragile and toxic cores the writing far out weighed the story for me. The multiple story threads that ran through the book made it an intriguing and interesting psychological thriller, I just wasnt my kind of thing. 

With thanks to netgalley and publishers in exchange for an honest review.
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