Following the chilling final episode of the TV adaptation of Apple Tree Yard, we've uncovered the reactions of both readers and watchers to this heart-stopping novel and its highly-acclaimed television miniseries.
Apple Tree Yard recently brought an exciting slice of scandal to our TV schedule. Within ten minutes of the first episode of the TV adaptation of Louise Doughty's riveting novel, two middle-aged and seemingly respectable adults - at this point, complete strangers to one another - were having sex in a cupboard in the House of Commons. This may have caused us temporarily to wonder whether this would simply be a more upmarket version of Fifty Shades - but we would have been wrong. This unsettling story of unbridled passion, depthless deception and sexual violence would soon come to both shock its audience and deftly reveal the brutal flaws in the justice system when it comes to sexual violence cases - and society's approach to their victims.
The author of the book, Louise Doughty, has never been afraid to explore uncomfortable, raw and emotive issues. In Apple Tree Yard, we witness the rapid descent of a once-respected scientist in Dr. Yvonne Carmichael, a middle-aged woman with a husband, a nice house, kids - but absolutely no passion or spark in her life. She can't resist a few steamy sessions with a handsome, mysterious man she meets in the House of Commons, but this lapse of discipline will lead to a series of dramatic and traumatic events.
Reactions to the book since its publication in 2013 have been mainly positive. Critic Stephanie Merritt, writing for The Guardian, comments that the book has 'a preoccupation with the "what if" territory of ordinary life, those unthinkable events that divide a life into "before" and "after"', making it an exciting yet uneasy read. It makes us 'ask difficult questions of ourselves', she writes, concluding that '[i]t's not a comfortable read, but it is entirely compelling'.
Also praising the book, Leyla Sanai of The Independent comments that Doughty's writing is 'piercing and potent, overpowering emotions captured in sharp, pithy phrases', and that '[t]he court scene is one of the best I've ever read, the suspense and tension building to a taut peak'.
The TV Series
Reactions to the television adaptation have been a little more mixed, though still lean towards positive. Critic Ed Power writes for The Telegraph: 'Apple Tree Yard is a cool-to-the-touch thriller that doubles as unnerving meditation on the dangerous urges just beneath the surface of everyday life.' Similarly, Helen Kelly writes for the Express that the programme is 'a sexy, seductive and thrilling adaptation'.
But, more profoundly, Louisa Mellor writes for Den of Geek that the series' strength lies in 'its critique of the justice system, especially concerning sexual assault'. She comments that whilst the thriller elements of the programme could be considered 'flimsy', what gives the show its fundamental value is its 'depressingly astute appraisal of the shortcomings in attitude and approach' to surviving victims of sexual assault. But she doesn't believe the show quite adds up to 'greatness'; parts of it prove unconvincing, such as (the clearly highly intelligent) Yvonne's naive belief that she can cover up her affair.
But James Waldron disagrees, commenting that the show is 'extremely good at making us believe in a relationship that Yvonne herself found hard to credit'. However, he follows this up with the comment that the show does 'perhaps drift for a while, not always observing the boundary between slow-burn and just slow'. Christopher Stevens of the Mail Online agrees with this criticism. Giving the show just 1 star out of 5, he writes: 'It's dismally slow. Passages of tense inactivity in a drama can build suspense, but many scenes here were downright moribund - characters said the same thing over and over, sitting on park benches or walking very slowly.'
But what did you think of this white-knuckle novel and/or its TV adaptation, and do you agree with the critics?