Book reviews

Archive for the ‘Hooper – Chloe’ Category

The Engagement by Chloe Hooper

The Engagement by Chloe Hooper caught my interest when I realised this psychological thriller was set in my stamping ground, beginning in Melbourne and ending at a pastoral property in the Western District of Victoria.

When Liese, a young English woman who had been working at her uncle’s real estate business in Melbourne met Alexander while he was looking for a city apartment, the two started an affair, using the apartments they were viewing for their own (yuck!).

From the beginning Alexander paid Liese after their encounters, which made it unclear if they were actually lovers who were role-playing or if they were conducting a business relationship.

Alexander invited Liese to accompany him for the weekend to Warrawill, an enormous station which had been in his family for 160 years. Liese accepted when Alexander told her that he would pay her for her time.

From then on, the story became complicated. On arrival, Liese was shown to a small bedroom, separate to where Alexander was sleeping. When she woke the next morning she realised that Alexander had locked her in the house while he went out on the farm. As a farm girl, I think this might have been for her own protection, although Liese found this to be sinister.

When Alexander returned he continually asked Liese about her past, wanting to know about her other clients and the brothels she had worked in, while Liese maintained (at least to herself and the reader) that she was not a prostitute and that she had only made up a lurid past to amuse Alexander during their previous meetings.

Liese hated the musty old house and the remote location, the cattle and the surroundings and was floored when Alexander announced that despite her past, he wanted to marry her and keep her at Warrawill to breed with her, presumably because as a farmer he realised that mixing their blood lines would strengthen his own breed which had become too fine.

By the end of the story when events come to a head, I couldn’t decide if Liese was an unreliable narrator or if she had been played by Alexander. I suppose that was the whole idea of the story.

I wouldn’t say that I particularly enjoyed this story and although my area of the Western District is coastal rather than inland where the enormous, desolate stations are, I feel loyal towards the whole region and was disappointed that Liese didn’t like the area. I didn’t particularly care for either character either, and found Liese and Alexander to be unlikeable in their own ways. I also found the story itself to be unbelievable, too. Nothing extraordinary actually happened, but the idea of these two particular people playing these strange games with each other, particularly in this location was too far-fetched for me.

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