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Published: 09 March 2021 09 March 2021

Behind Closed Doors by Catherine Alliott

On the surface Lucy Palmer seems to have it all – two lovely grown-up children, a career as a crime novelist, marriage to a well-known theatre critic and a beautiful house in the city. However, appearances can be deceptive as not all abuse is visible on the outside. For years she suffered her husband Michael’s controlling behaviour – he made it impossible for her to just walk away – but now, due to unforeseen circumstances, she can take charge of her own life.  

Meanwhile, her ageing parents, Cecily and Henry, are finding it hard to cope on their own, but are reluctant to admit it. She rents out her house and goes back to live with them, which gives her some breathing space to consider her future.

If you are familiar with Catherine Alliott’s novels, you will recognise this world. Her characters are wonderfully drawn and completely believable – I especially liked Lucy’s parents and their circle of eccentric friends, and her twin nieces, Tess and Maudie. On the other hand Michael’s sister, Amanda is truly horrible; despite this, somehow, I still had some sympathy for her. Their troubled childhood had obviously warped them both.

There is not as much focus on romance in Behind Closed Doors as there usually is in novels by this writer, but that’s fine as this is such and interesting and absorbing story. Told entirely from Lucy’s point of view, with enough humour to lighten the dark subject matter, we are with her all the way as she contemplates how (and with whom) she wants to live the rest of her life.

I have read and loved all Catherine Alliott’s books, and this is one of her best. The title is very apt, referring as it does to both Lucy’s life and that of her parents. The serious subjects dealt with in Behind Closed Doors are handled with sensitivity and empathy, and are a reminder that not all suffering can be seen with the naked eye.

Thanks to Penguin and NetGalley for a digital copy to review #BehindClosedDoors #CatherineAlliott