Ophelia Dormandy is a successful barrister. She decides after a particularly successful day in court to go home and cook a lovely supper for her and her husband Patrick, some fresh food and a lovely dress will certainly make her happy. However, she doesn't expect her whole world to unravel when Patrick announces he has been having an affair, and soon Ophelia kicks him out of the family home, leaving her alone with her young son for the first time. It starts to affect Ophelia not only at home but at work too, and when a few serious cases come along, she begins to come undone when she finds herself getting caught up in unprofessional situations and making rash decisions. Is Ophelia going to be able to get her life back together again, or is she destined just to be Ophelia in pieces forever?
I honestly hadn't heard of this book until we were approached by Clare Jacob's publishers with the possibility of reviewing the book. Both Leah and I thought it sounded really intriguing, something different from what I usually read which is what I am really trying to do at the moment, so I thought I would give it a go. I was actually really inspired to pick this up by the tagline which says "If you liked "Silk", you'll love this", and given that I did love the recent BBC TV show, I thought this would be fantastic. Having watched that, I actually understood a lot of the legal things in the book which made reading it easier for me considering I know nothing about legal things, but I really couldn't put this book down, it draws you in and there's nothing better than a read you don't want to end!
The book dives in straight away to the main problem of Ophelia finding out that her husband Patrick has been unfaithful and Ophelia dealing with the fall out of that by kicking him out straight away, something I expect most people would do in that situation. Immediately, you feel sympathetic towards Ophelia - while you know her job has taken her away from her family for a long time, it doesn't give her husband the right to cheat on her and so you feel so sorry for her, especially knowing her son is involved in the situation too. I did like the character of Ophelia a lot, she's a good protagonist for the book and Jacobs' writing really brings to life the emotional turmoil Ophelia goes through, right up until the last page.
One thing I did find strange was Jacobs' portrayal of Ophelia's 9 year old son. He seemed much older than this age in the book, saying things I know my 8 year old nephew would never come out with and although this is highlighted in the book with the boy being somewhat of an exception, it did seem strange and I felt perhaps Jacobs should have made the child character that much older to suit the character she was writing. Also, I felt Ophelia and her son had a strange relationship - again this is reflected in the storyline and what happens with the various relationships within but it was very odd to read, especially as a mother of a young child myself.
I was expecting a little more to happen in the book than did happen, especially given the title of the book. However, this didn't sully my enjoyment of it by any means. I felt it really picked up pace once the court case got going, something I actually loved in the book! It isn't a hugely complicated case littered with terms people won't understand, instead Jacobs brings it back to basics, something that can draw any reader in and give them a look at the judicial system from a barrister's point of view. As this was Jacobs' own career before writing, you can tell she writes with experience as her writing flows so well at this point, and it made for fantastic reading. The criminal characters in the book were so well described, I can't help but wonder if Jacobs' modelled them on some real life people she had met in her job!
Overall, I think this is a fantastic debut novel, and certainly opened my eyes to a new genre of books I usually wouldn't bother picking up. The courtroom drama adds a whole new perspective to a traditional women's fiction plotline of the wronged woman, and allows the book to branch out with much grittier topics too. The realistic characters, dramatic settings and plot twists and turns ensure the reader is rapt by the tale, and you will want to keep reading until the final page is finished. Ophelia in Pieces is a well written, enjoyable story that I will definitely be recommending, especially to those who think they wouldn't normally like this sort of book - surprise yourself, just like I did! Fantastic.