When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.
There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.
As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.
Wow! What a book
On one hand this is a tricky novel to review. It’s unpleasant. It’s graphic in places. It’s language is sometimes crude and offensive. Kepnes has done this to create the unforgettable quietly threatening, unnerving character of Joe with absolute conviction and effect. On the other hand it’s an easy book to review because it shocked me, it also gripped me and I was hooked until the dark unpleasant end and have been unable to forget about it ever since I turned the last page.
The story is about Joe and the day that Guinevere Beck a bright young carefree girl who walks into the bookshop where he works. Joe becomes infatuated with her and wastes no time, manipulating and orchestrating situations which will enable him to become Beck’s “Ideal” Man. Beck and Joe embark on a relationship which can only lead her unsuspectingly into danger as Joe’s obsession spirals out of control and he struggles to contain his truly menacing personality.
The most striking thing about this novel is that it is written in second person. It is Joe’s voice addressing Beck. Telling the whole story from this angle is ambitious and extremely disconcerting. It increases the tension and the perturbing atmosphere. Kepnes handles this notoriously challenging narrartive style with ease. it is fluid, readable and captivating.
Of course this also means that we see all the action third hand through Joe’s eyes. He is an unreliable narrator. He is delusional. His interpreations of events and reactions are one sided and inaccurate. Our whole relationship with Beck if founded on what is presented by Joe which makes it a fascinating read. Our reactions to other characters like the unlikeable Benji are also only formed by what Joe has decided to reveal so how sure can we be about what any of these people are really like?
Joe is a difficult narrator to form a relationship with. He Is unhinged, dangerous and dysfunctional yet makes for compulsive reading. The novel is dense and initially quite slow paced as meticuolous detail is shared by Joe and the way he plans to ensure Beck is very thorough but I think this enavles the reader to become completely immersed in his world. it is also a warning for anyone who indulges in social media so much of us exists out there in cyberspace it is not difficult for Joe to worm his way back into Becks life and this makes the novel extremely modern and contemporary
If it is possible to “enjoy” the novel then I “Enjoyed” the second half a lot more and raced through it. I found the way Joe controlled the manner in which he presented himself as average, stable and ordinary when actually he is intelligent, methodical and deeply threatening, really intriguing. I consently feared for Beck and was on tenterhooks all the way through the novel. I liked that at certain points I felt Joe softened and didn’t have the courage to carry out his threats but then at other times realised he absolutely did. I also found Beck and interesting character. she is not a typical victim. the reader is not always completely sympathetic towards her. she is not always likeable. This adds more tension and makes it a more dynamic plot.
The ending is thrilling. It leaves the reader uncomfortable and chilled. I will be haunted by this story. It is unique. If you can prepare yourself for the sexually explicit scenes and language, you will be rewarded by meeting one of the most dysfunctional and angry narrators I’ve come across in recent fiction