When lonely single mum Janey stumbles into an art workshop, she can't believe her eyes when her left hand mysteriously scribbles a picture of two little girls and a strange message from someone called 'Hattie': Janey's childhood best friend. But they lost touch after Hattie's family suddenly moved away in mysterious circumstances. Janey's instincts tell her that she must finally find out what happened to Hattie, but life is already complicated enough: she's struggling with motherhood, a custody battle over her toddler son Pip is looming, and she finds herself falling for intense art tutor Steve. And when writing appears on the walls of her flat and Pip starts playing with an invisible friend, Janey fears she's losing her mind. Is it really a good idea to go digging up the past? As dark secrets come to light, she can't be sure what's real any more - or who to trust...Moving and suspenseful, The Last Day I Saw Her is a richly emotive story of friendship lost and found, and how facing up to the past can help you find a better future.
I would like to thank Black and White publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Having read Lucy's debut novel Tiny Acts of Love when I heard that she was releasing a new book I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. I have to say I wasn't disappointed. This book is the complete opposite of Lucy's debut novel and I loved all the twists and turns.
The characters in this were very well developed and I couldn't help but relate to both Janey and Hattie. The mystery element of the story had so many strands to it that I had to keep reading to find out what happened in the end. Without spoiling the ending Lucy pulled all the strands together perfectly.
A great second book and I for one can't wait for books three.
Lucy's play list
The Last Day I Saw Her – Playlist
When something is bothering me but I don’t know what, I often turn to music. For me, it can unlock emotions that I haven’t yet been able to put into word. It can help me with the writing process too, bringing events and characters to life in my head so I can capture them on the page. I listened to lots of different music while writing The Last Day I Saw Her, and these are some of the songs and pieces that I associate with certain parts of the story.
I Know Him So Well, sung by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson
In Chapter 1, twelve-year-old Hattie has her first piano lesson with sinister piano teacher Miss Fortune, who asks her to play a tune from memory. Hattie manages to pick out the tune of ‘I Know Him So Well’.
When I was about nine or ten I heard this song on the radio and I loved it, although I had no idea what it was. I spent weeks teaching myself to play it on the piano, but when I plucked up courage to play it to my music teacher she dismissed it as ‘banal’, just as Miss Fortune does in the story!
Take on Me, by A-Ha
Young Hattie has been given a Walkman for her birthday, but her parents (her father is a famous composer) have only given her one tape – of string quartets - to go with it. Hattie believes her house is haunted – she hears thumping noises at night, and the piano on the top floor playing by itself. So her best friend Janey secretly gives her an A-Ha tape to play at night, in the hope that it will be more effective at drowning out the ghostly noises as it is ‘really banal and really good’!
When I was writing this part of the book I listened to a LOT of eighties music to remind me what it felt like to be twelve years old, and a girl growing up in that era. I love the energy of this song and when I listen to it I imagine Janey and Hattie jumping around their bedrooms and singing raucously into hairbrushes.
Nocturne No. 13 in C Minor, by Chopin
Young Janey, already grieving the death of her beloved grandfather, is devastated when Hattie and her family suddenly leave Edinburgh inexplicably, and all contact is cut off. She throws herself into her piano practise and tries to learn this piece, even though it is technically beyond her abilities.
“And something about the piece let my sadness out. The longing for him, so tightly furled in my chest, my shoulders and my neck, would loosen and flow down my arms, my fingers, onto the keys. And afterwards I’d go back to class with my arms warm and shaky, my vision swimming.”
There’s a melancholy, brooding quality to this piece, but there’s a moment (at around 4 minutes 40) where its as if light suddenly breaks through the darkness. Like Janey, I find it incredibly beautiful.
Crazy for You by Madonna
When Janey is 14 years old, she ends up at a drunken teenage party, where she encounters Hattie’s older brother, James. It was quite hard to get into the right space to write this scene, and to help me, I looked up and played music that was in the charts around that time. When I hit on ‘Crazy for You’, the scene just came to life in my mind. I could get inside Janey’s feelings; the alcohol-and-hormone-fuelled teenage rush of being at the party, and the emotional fragility underlying it all.
“He smelt of cigarettes and gin, but underneath was the smell of Hattie. The lemon soap, the washing powder. Inexpressibly comforting.
The opening bars of Madonna’s Crazy for You floated up from the basement, and I melted against him. He started – oh God, he was kissing me – and in one fluid move, he opened the door of his bedroom, and moved me backwards, still kissing, until we fell onto his bed.”
Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley
Janey begins a relationship with intense art tutor, Steve. He has fallen hard for her, but sometimes she senses a dark undertow to his feelings. It’s as though he’s fighting against their love even while he’s giving himself up to it.
“‘I’m scared, Janey. I’m scared, all right? I want you so much and I don’t think I can stay here any more.’
‘On the outside. The outside of you. You’re pulling me. You’re pulling me in.’”
This song is a reflection on love and how it is broken, imperfect, complicated. And yet alongside this brokenness there is the ‘Hallelujah’ that comes again and again.
Dido’s Lament sung by Alison Moyet
I listened to this very haunting song over and over while writing one of the saddest scenes in the book.
Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler
The Last Day I Saw Her is a love story, but not the obvious kind, as it’s about the love between two friends. It doesn’t happen often, but perhaps once or twice in a lifetime someone comes into your life who lifts you up and helps you to become the person you’re meant to be. As Janey says about Hattie:
“There was no need to put it into words, because we both knew all the ways in which we had saved each other.”
The book is dedicated to my friend Arlene. I have no idea what I’d do without her, and this song is here on the playlist because it makes me think of her.
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Lucy Lawrie is a lawyer and mum of two girls. She started writing when she was on maternity leave and unearthed a primary two homework book in which she'd stated, in very wobbly handwriting: 'I want to be an AUTHOR when I grow up.' Two novels later, she’s still writing as fast as she can, to her keep her six-year-old self happy.
To find out more, or to contact Lucy, please visit her website: www.lucylawrie.com