Aware of the wide range of different books now available on the Amazon Kindle Store, and in need of something new to read, I decided I would consult it for my next choice. Not only was While My Eyes Were Closed in the general bestsellers list, it also occupied first place in the free books and its description sounded great- after Gone Girl, I quite liked the idea of another book that featured a disappearance.
The narrative was fairly straightforward and the situation of the disappearance fairly feasible: mother and daughter play in the park, mother turns her back and the daughter hurts herself. The daughter insists she can continue playing and, of course, that is where everything changes. I never found myself blaming Lisa for her daughter’s disappearance, but I kept changing my mind as to whether I was supposed to as so many of the characters seemed to have at least thought about it.
A few pages in, I was hooked, and the multiple narrators definitely played a part in this. I found Lisa to be easy to identify with, she is confident and headstrong, but emotional when she needs to be, and is, most importantly, always honest with the reader. Muriel, and her narrative was infuriating, yet I still couldn’t bear to put the book down, with the irrational worry that I would miss something important. I was desperate for her to either slip up and be found out, or to realise that she had done wrong and confess all, but the narrative kept me hanging, actually meaning that I devoured the entire book in one Sunday when I really should have been revising.
What I liked about the book was Green’s undeniable ability to create real, living characters. After being introduced to each, it was easy to paint a clear image in my head and I could assimilate each one of them to at least someone I know. Green’s ability to create tension is also great; everytime the phone rings I shared Lisa and Alex’s anxiety for what news Claire had to deliver. It was also interesting that almost all of the named characters had a particular role to play in the narrative, even if they at first seemed a mere attempt to bulk to the story out. This means that characters linked up in ways you may not expect to begin with, unravelling the story further.
The inclusion of British popular culture, such as the BBC and The Sun, were little touches that made a big difference to the narrative. In making direct references to these media sources, the story was really brought to life, given that people encounter them everyday and can only imagine how it must feel to be a feature of them. I probably would not have minded if they were replaced with fictional alternatives, but their presence was definitely a positive addition.
However, there are a few things that were disappointing in the While My Eyes Were Closed. Firstly, Matthew’s narration seemed somewhat half-hearted. I understand that his point of view would be difficult to portray in any way other than a diary, but given that his voice was only given a handful of chapters, we learned very little from him than the very basics that held the plot together. Whilst, in terms of narrative progression, this did what it needed to, it did seem a little rushed. In the same vein, towards the end some parts felt rushed, or underdeveloped. For example, when Muriel is standing ‘on the edge’ with Ella- such a big build up is made with a very underwhelming decision against what she plans and we are left with no insight as to why and how her mind changes so quickly.
The book also ends on a cliffhanger, which is satisfying in parts and frustrating in the other. Given that almost the entire narrative is based on the investigation into Ella’s disappearance, it seems natural that we will finish with a conclusion, but we are left almost in media res. Perhaps it is my personal preference, but I would like to have been given the eventual situation, given that it would have been impossible for the culprit to go unpunished.
With all considered, I have mixed feelings about Green’s ebook. I would definitely recommend it to others because of the intensity of the majority of the story, and the fact that I couldn’t finish each page quick enough to learn what would happen on the next, but I would definitely warn them about the end- just one more chapter, perhaps told from the future, would have been enough to satisfy me!