Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister – Review
By Karl Hornsey
Gillian McAllister made her breakthrough last year with her debut novel Everything But the Truth, and has followed that success with this offering, creating an intriguing thriller that once again challenges the reader’s moral perceptions and beliefs.
Anything You Do Say centres on the story of Joanna and the one, split-second decision that will alter her life forever, after she is followed on her way home from an evening out with her friend. From this starting point, McAllister splits the story into two, with alternate chapters entitled ‘Conceal’ and ‘Reveal’ throughout, with each strand dependant on that one decision. This format is far from easy to convincingly pull off, but McAllister does so, creating believable, if not necessarily likeable characters, and scenarios that just about stay the right side of credibility.
Clearly one has to take something of a leap of imagination, but the main thing here is that the scenario gets the reader thinking long after finishing the book, which is an improvement on many forgettable attempts by others at this type of novel.
“Pace rattles along”
It’s almost impossible to read this without being reminded of Sliding Doors, the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle that follows the two paths and two vastly different outcomes of one chance event in the central protagonist’s life. Other than the basic premise, in all honesty, there is little common ground between the two, although it could be argued that actually liking or sympathising with the lead character in each isn’t that easy.
In this case, Joanna is utterly self-centred, but then again, without that personality, this simply wouldn’t work. What certainly does work here is a premise that plays on the feelings and moral virtues of anyone reading, and what they would do if they found themselves in the same situation.
McAllister’s past study of law before she became an author serves her well and is used several times during the novel, which again enriches it with plausibility and a sense that this genuinely could happen in real life. The focus switches easily from ‘Conceal’ to ‘Reveal’, it’s easy to keep track of both stories, and the pace rattles along from the start, making it hard to put down.
It’s a page-turner that holds interest throughout, but I have to admit to being a little let down by the ending (or endings), which seemed to be too convenient after what had gone before. Crucially, however, this didn’t mar my enjoyment of the book, and indeed wouldn’t stop me from reading McAllister’s next novel, No Further Questions, which is released later this year.
‘Anything You Do Say’ by Gillian McAllister is published by Penguin, £7.99 paperback