Six Years by Harlan Coben (Orion)
Due for publication 25 April 2013
Why do people read Harlan Coben? This is not a lead in to a piece of damning criticism, but I have to admit that the obvious answer would normally lead me to run a million miles away from a book. People read Harlan Coben for plot. He is the literary equivalent of a high concept movie. The plot of Six Years:
Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd.
But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for…but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life – a time he has never gotten over – is turned completely inside out.
As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart – and who lied to him – soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction.
Ok, so the film company (for the inevitable movie version) may need to work a little on reducing words to a tagline, but what a great premise. I have to say that Six Years doesn’t disappoint, unlike so many other books sold to me on the basis ‘oh, but the plot is great’ (Dan Brown, I am referring to you, among others).
Six years works because of the engaging and involving plot and the characterisation revealed through the first person narration of Jake Fisher. The reader in the first half of the novel is constantly in doubt, can we believe Fisher, does such a brief relationship in his eyes really equal something akin to the love he describes or is Fisher psychotically depressed and obsessed. It appears for much of the novel that we could be reading the words of an unreliable narrator and it is only with later events that some (but not all) sense of reliability can be assumed. It is Coben’s skill as a writer that this literary device is never overplayed, it is always working within the confines of a thriller.
My only reservations relate to the coda of the novel, which appears rushed. These are minor criticisms though. For the most part Six Years is a great read, a fine and satisfying thriller.
Rating: 4 out of 5