Wildfire | 2018 (Hb: 22 March; ebook: 2 March) | 358p | Review copy | Buy the book
Juliette loves Nate. She doesn’t want to be apart from him and the fact that Nate’s an airline pilot means that he can be away from home for more than half of the time. It makes sense, then, that she should become a flight attendant with the same airline. With any luck they’ll be able to share some of the trips and their relationship will be stronger than ever. The fact that Nate broke up with Juliette a few months ago is nothing but a hurdle to overcome. Soon they will be back together and Juliette can continue to share in Nate’s glamorous life. Nothing or noone can stand in her way. After all, Juliette is the perfect girlfriend.
The Perfect Girlfriend is Karen Hamilton’s debut novel, a stand alone psychological thriller with a premise that instantly hooks. As soon as I heard about this, I was desperate to read it and Juliette does not disappoint. She is the perfect anti-hero and even though Juliette’s clearly the villain of the piece, it’s in her company that we spend our time. We see the workings of her brain, the way that she rationalises what she does (and some of what she does is truly shocking – did she really do that?! I found myself thinking that a fair bit), as if it’s all completely normal, and it’s actually quite hard to dislike her. Nate is a bit of a shadowy figure. He’s the ideal, the goal and therefore more two-dimensional. He’s much harder to empathise with than our righteous, proud and ever so determined Juliette.
The first half of the novel was my clear favourite. I loved the way in which Juliette sets up the situation for us, as we see what she gets up to and the lengths she’ll go to to be a part of Nate’s life. This is fascinating – terrifying but fascinating. Watching Juliette try to make and keep a friend is especially involving. We get little hints of how the outside world views Juliette, even though we view most of the world through the blinkers that Juliette constantly wears. I wasn’t as won over by the second half as then we enter into more extreme territory, heading deeper into Fatal Attraction country, as Juliette begins to lose control and chaos descends. But it’s difficult to see how else it could have been.
I really enjoyed the details of life as a flight attendant. Karen Hamilton writes with firsthand experience and it does show, adding a great deal of weight and authenticity to the book. I love the mix of the job’s glamour and tedium, the exotic locations and dealing with difficult passengers on long flights (not to mention the odd spot of turbulence).
The Perfect Girlfriend is such a fun novel, with an anti-heroine that somehow manages to win us over to her side despite the most outrageous behaviour. Throw in some luxurious and exotic destinations and the fascinating world of the flying business, and you have the recipe for a thoroughly entertaining psychological thriller with a difference. It’s certainly an impressive debut.