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You Let Me In - Book Review

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by Jennifer Muirhead (subscribe)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt
Published February 12th 2020
Beware of fairy gifts
You Let Me In, Camilla Bruce, novel, fairytale, fairies, psychological thriller, disturbing novel

"'Why me?' I asked Pepper-Man sometimes. 'Why me? Why not Olivia?'

He looked up at me with bloody lips. 'You were here first, and I have grown used to the taste of you now. You let me in, and here I am, forever yours till the end.'

They struck me, those words: I let him in. They haunted me for years. How could I possibly have let him in? I couldn't recall having done anything like that. Was it because I was wrong? Was that what allowed him to slip inside?

'And if I told you to leave, ' I asked. 'What would you do then?'

'You would never do that.' Pepper-Man gifted me a sharp-toothed smile.

'What would you be then but an angry little girl? It is too late for you now to be like your sister.'"

The eccentric elderly novelist Cassandra Tipp is missing, presumed dead. She has named her niece and nephew as the heirs to her estate, but only on the condition that they read the manuscript of her last book. In it, she promises to finally shed some light on what really happened to her as a child, and how her husband, Tommy Tipp, was killed. Cassandra always claimed that as a girl she had been lured away and fed upon by fairies and that Tommy's death years later was an accident. However, Cassandra's psychologist offers a more ordinary, but equally horrible, explanation.

This book is not what I was expecting at all, which is not to say I was disappointed by it. Far from it! However, having noted from the publisher's blurb that it involved fairies, I was expecting a more conventional fantasy, not this dark, ambiguous tale of a girl who should have been protected from predators, which come in all shapes and sizes.

The writing is poetic and full of rich imagery, but at times it becomes confusing and uncomfortable to read. Despite this, I found this book almost impossible to put down.

Don't read this novel expecting a warm, fuzzy modern fairy tale. These are the old fashioned, alien, amoral sort of fairies. Camilla Bruce's interesting take on them is that they were once people whose personalities were too strong to really die when their bodies did, causing them to live on as parasites in a kind of twilight existence. They grow to resemble the living things they feed from, so they can have feathers, wings, fur, tails, or in the case of Cassandra's fairy companion, the Pepper-Man, have long, tree-like bodies and limbs. They are not especially wise and they prey on human children.

This novel is neither an ordinary fairy story nor a conventional thriller/murder mystery. There are two different stories here, one Cassandra's, the other pieced together by her doctor, and both are equally disturbing. It is left up to the reader to decide which to believe.

You Let Me In is a gripping, beautifully written story that will linger with you long after you finish it. It would be a good choice for a book club since there is a lot of scope for discussion as to what exactly happened and who was to blame.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bantam Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Published: March 5, 2020
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