‘The Exclusives’ is Rebecca Thornton’s debut novel.
1996. Freya Seymour and Josephine Grey are invincible – beautiful and brilliant, the two best friends are on the cusp of Oxbridge, and the success they always dreamed they’d share. 2014. Freya gets in touch, looking for a conversation Josephine has run away from for eighteen long and tortured years. Beginning with one ill-fated night, The Exclusives charts the agonising spiral of friendship gone wrong, the heartache and betrayal of letting down those closest to you and the poisonous possibilities of what we wouldn’t do when everything we prize is placed under threat. And in the end, as she realises she cannot run for ever, Josephine must answer one question: is it Freya she cannot face, or is it her own darkest secret?
I read this book one day, when I fancied a change, I liked the bleakness of the cover as well as the synopsis, a story about two best friends at a boarding school whose indestructible friendship falls apart one night and how the years progress after this seemingly perfect friendship becomes hostile.
The story is seen primarily through the narrative of Josephine Grey, a popular and successful student with Grade A results, she is shoo in for Oxford and her best friend Freya Seymour, a kind friend who looks out for Josephine and treats Josephine more like family than a friend. The two friends go out one night to celebrate Josephine being appointed Head Girl, but it ends in disaster with vague memories and the girls covered in blood. Terrified Freya tries to talk to Josephine to find out what happened but Josephine refuses to talk and begins to the ignore the situation and this begins the downward spiral of their friendship. As the years pass, Josephine becomes a loner of the school, focusing on her studies and her editorial position at the school newspaper, whilst Freya befriends Josephineâ€™s arch enemy, Verity all with the intentions of jeopardising each others lives. Almost twenty years later Freya gets in touch with Josephine wanting to talk. Josephine is now a successful archaeologist travelling the world and the last thing she wants to hear is from her old best friend, so she refuses to meet and this begins the agonising despair of remembering those years of sadness and loneliness.
The story flashes between the past the present and gives a vivid description of life in a boarding school, the loneliness, the bullying, the pressure to succeed and above all the bitchiness of girls and how they pick up on vulnerabilities. Josephineâ€™s life is far from perfect but she puts on a brave face, her mother is severely depressed and is often in hospital and her father is busy with work. Only Freya knows the truth about Josephineâ€™s family and uses this to her advantage.
Whilst reading this book, I felt a lot of sympathy for Josephine, both in the past and present as she dealt with her own emotions and life, but I found her to be an incredibly dislikable character, who only seemed interested in her own succession and didnâ€™t really consider the feelings of others particularly her best friend and I also felt that her own selfishness was the demise of the best relationship she had.
The story concentrates on the friendship and how it ended and also how Josephine has progressed in life, with relationships and her own mental health and we see how a woman is battling hard not to turn into her mother, which seems to be her major fear. My only real complaint about the book, was that I felt there wasnâ€™t enough detail about the night that ruined Josephineâ€™s and Freyaâ€™s friendship, I felt after the consequences of that night, there should have been a bigger reveal, apart from that I enjoyed this story
This book gripped my attention with the grim environment, the troubled characters and the complexities of life, it was cleverly written with many twists and turns and gave an interesting insight into how life at boarding school isnâ€™t always like an Enid Blyton novel.
You can buy The Exclusives from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.