Jul 12, 2015

'Disclaimer' - Renee Knight. The Rest of the Weekend.

Taking up from where I left off at the end of my last post (because all my free time this weekend has been consumed by it), we need to discuss 'Disclaimer'.  I finished it this afternoon over several mugs of tea, in between several spontaneous dances to Wiggles classics and whilst doing the laundry (about that last one, all things are possible if you read books from a Kindle).

Despite the fact that her seemingly innocent and charmed life is unraveling around her as she reads a novel that graphically explores her concealed past while predicting her gruesome demise, it isn't easy to like Catherine for the first three quarters of this novel.  As an award winning documentary maker and as a wife and mother, she just has this power that enables her to have others submit to her will.  Her exposes on sex crimes against children revolve around the fact that she was able to encourage vulnerable and damaged people to open up to her and her cameras.  Robert, her non confrontational lawyer husband goes along with pretty much everything Catherine desires.  Nicholas, their son, doesn't bother her with the details of his life which doesn't seem to be heading on the stellar path of his parents.

As Catherine is revealed to us in all her steely and seemingly selfish glory, her link to retired teacher Stephen Brigstocke becomes apparent.  Catherine once met Stephen's wife Nancy as she fought the terminal stages of cancer.  The reason for the meeting isn't clear to us early in the novel but it left Nancy unfulfilled.  Nancy was a writer herself and in her final years seemed to spend much of her time at their son Jonathon's apartment.

I'm going to apologise in advance for my clumsy explanation of the novel's plot.  It jumps between the present day (2013) and twenty years' before which is when the pivotal incident occurred that caused the worlds of Stephen and Catherine to collide.  If I were to explain things too clearly, the plot would be given away entirely.  But the image on the novel's cover alludes to the key elements of the mystery central to the novel - a camera and its incriminating photos, a mother alone with her child in the distance, and a person out of the frame of the picture who has the patience to sit back and watch the two with endless drinks and cigarettes.

Deep down, Stephen knew that his late wife was a better writer than him.  He also knew that Nancy did and would still do, if she were still alive, everything she could to further his career.  Which is why Stephen thought nothing of appropriating one of her unpublished novels as his own and independently publishing it.  The novel, Nancy's notebooks and a cashmere cardigan Nancy always wore whilst nursing their only child Jonathon become the three things that keep Stephen functioning as he attempts to cope with the grief over Nancy's death and, it turns out, Jonathon's.

Jonathon was only nineteen when he died.  He drowned in Spain whilst on a holiday with his girlfriend.  As it turns out, he died whilst rescuing Nicholas in the ocean whilst Catherine watched form the shore in horror, fear and a strangely detached calm. It seems too, from that point, that Catherine's relationship with her son became more distant. In contrast to what we are told about Nancy's extreme protectiveness over and faith in her own son, Jonathon.

There are two versions of what happened between Jonathon and Catherine in 1993 and it is the one which paints Catherine as a sexual predator that Nancy chose to believe and write about in the novel that Catherine eventually comes to read.  Stephen attempts to make Nancy's novel a reality with a series of meticulously planned mind games that ultimately have a tragic result that ironically ends up revealing what really happened that summer in Spain.

'Disclaimer' is Renee Knight's first novel and it is widely considered to be one of the best examples of domestic noir to have hit the bestseller lists.  Knight paints her characters with keen attention to both their mental quirks as well as to the oddities in their behaviour.  Because they all are a little odd.  But then again, how could you not be on a downward spiral to some kind of psychosis when you've been part of the kind of secret Catherine has hidden and Stephen half suspected for twenty years?

Have your read 'Disclaimer' yourself?  Did you enjoy it as much as I did?  So much so that you're secretly hoping it never gets the Hollywood blockbuster treatment because its plot and themes are so dark, Hollywood would never be able to do it justice?

With my reading time immersed in so much darkness, pain and revenge - it felt even better than usual to be able to spend this weekend doing my normal favourite weekend things.

There was a walk to the park in the wintery afternoon sun yesterday, complete with duck sightings.

We went out for morning tea and gingerbread.

I was busy in the kitchen using coconut essence and low fat cooking cream as a substitute for coconut cream in a chicken curry and by jingo, it really worked!  It tasted just like the real thing.

I was Aunty Handy Hands as I managed to successfully convert the Bugaboo back to bassinet mode.  Can't wait to be able to pop over to my brother's place to take the little one for a stroll for a coffee.  Just hit me that I'll probably have to find myself a hover board so that I'll be able to take Toddler SSG along for the ride as well.  Better get onto that pronto.

And as much as I love Toddler SSG when he's up and at 'em and leaving chaos in his wake, I also love him dearly when he times his naps with lunchtime on our shopping trips.  It's one of life's simple pleasures to be left alone to your thoughts at a shopping centre food court with a kebab'n'coke for sustenance and the latest Aldi Special Buy catalogue for reading material.  I can't even remember ever having had a life when those simple pleasures might have been a second glass of champagne with sashimi and a10cm high pile of the month's magazines.....

Talk to you soon and may you have a safe and productive week.


  1. I wish you a day where you can have as many magazines, champagnes and sashimi as you please xx

    1. Thank you, C! Should be coming my way sometime soon, I hope.

      SSG xxx

  2. Thanks for the recommendation, Disclaimer is now on my Goodreads list!

    1. No problem, Lisa. I'm hooked on the genre now. Just found a new one that I'm loving. Will blog when I'm done reading it.

      SSG xxx


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