- ISBN 978-1-925972-65-8
- 371 pages
- source: my local library
- author website
Synopsis (author website)
Emily Proudman is a struggling actor in London, whose life is falling apart. When she is offered a job as live-in assistant for a family on a remote French estate, she jumps at the chance to start over. But her charismatic new employers are hiding dangerous secrets, and what at first appears to be a dream come true turns out to a be a prison from which none of them will ever escape – unless Emily can find a way to set them all free.
Superbly tense and mesmerising, The Safe Place is a deft examination of the lengths we’ll go to project and protect the façade of a perfect life and was largely written when author Anna Downes was in the grips of post-natal depression following the birth of her second child. With all her existential fears bubbling to the surface, Anna began writing as a way to have some semblance of control. She wrote and wrote and, reliving her previous career as an actor, began playing all the parts of the characters she had created. The result is one of the most tense and compelling debut novels ever, and The Safe Place was subject to a frenetic auction between Australian and international publishers in 2019.
Emily Proudman isn’t a very good receptionist. She is often late because she is juggling auditions and bit-piece work. So in a sense she is not surprised when she is sacked. What she doesn’t know is that she has been noticed by the boss who has decided that she is just perfect for another job. He “accidentally” bumps into her after she has been sacked and offers her a job as general factotum on his estate in France assisting his wife and helping look after his young daughter.
He flies Emily to France in his private jet, she is collected from the airport by a chauffeur, who then rather unceremoniously dumps her at the estate which is well hidden away in the countryside. By that night Emily is ready to leave but decides to give the wife Nina another chance. Over the weeks Emily and Nina get on fairly well and then her boss visits for the weekend. After that Emily begins to realise that there are things that are seriously wrong.
What is actually behind all the seclusion and isolation was not what I expected, and so I was once again hooked into reading until the very end so that I could see how it all panned out.
The structure of the novel is interesting. Emily is the main narrator and we generally see things through her eyes. There is a second narrator whose chapters are in italics, and the tragic story, and the identity of the narrator are there for us deduce.
My rating: 4.4
About the author
Anna Downes grew up in Sheffield, UK. She studied drama at Manchester before winning a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and moving to London to pursue an acting career. Her acting credits include EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City, and Dalziel and Pascoe, as well as a long-running stage production of The Dresser in London’s West End.
In 2009 she left to go travelling with her Australian partner, a trip that included a stint working as a live-in housekeeper on a remote French estate, where the seeds for The Safe Place were sown. Anna now lives on the Central Coast with her husband and two children. The Safe Place is being published simultaneously in the US and the UK, with several other countries to follow.