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Never Say Goodbye (2011)

Having read all of Linda Kavanagh's back catalogue, I was delighted to hear the news of this release - and the premise was certainly an intriguing one. Thirty years ago, the official verdict was that 13-year-old Zoe Gray accidentally drowned. But when her sister Claire inherits the family home, she discovers her sister's secret diary, which tells a very different story. Claire discovers that four schoolgirls in Zoe's class were guilty of appalling acts of bullying that ultimately led Zoe to take her own life. She vows to avenge her sister by finding and punishing the women responsible. The four schoolgirls are now in their early 40s, and all are leading wealthy and privileged lives. The tragedy of Zoe's death has defined their own lives, and kept them close to each other, united in guilt that is never spoken about. But suddenly, out of the blue, someone is threatening to strip away the safe veneer of respectability they've built around themselves. They all have so much to lose. Yet as the story unfolds, even more astonishing are the secrets they've never shared with each other . . . As Claire starts out on her journey of revenge, she finds herself in a world where nothing is quite what it seems. Will she succeed in avenging Zoe? And are there further secrets to be uncovered? If you like your women's fiction dark, Kavanagh does dark extremely well - and this novel is no exception. School bullying is a subject that I've rarely come across in women's fiction, and this book handles it extremely well - along with some other very serious themes. There's a present day story and a back story running through the novel, and for me, the back story is by far the more powerful and impactful. There were times when I wanted to scream at the injustice Zoe suffered and fervently wished that someone would help her make her way out of her hopeless predicament. The author also shows great skill in making the reader empathise with some of the characters that initially seem abhorrent, and in showing that some people who appear to be bad eggs in life are bad for a reason and that nothing is as simple as it seems, while others are simply bad and beyond redemption. With a chilling ending, this book is well worth a read for those who are looking for something gritty. (SBS)

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