Fiction

Verity: A creepy rom thriller with clever twists

Ranjana Sundaresan | Updated on: May 24, 2022

Colleen Hoover’s book has plenty of atmosphere that keeps you hooked

The back cover of Colleen Hoover’s  Verity refers to her as a “Tiktok sensation” and this intrigues me. Someone in their infinite wisdom decided some time ago that Indians shouldn’t have access to what undoubtedly sounds like the mother of all time-wasting tools (I mourn its loss). So, instead I Google the author and quickly find that her most popular series of books is what looks like young adult romances, and they are pretty popular on “Booktok” (still mourning the lack of access). This is the impression I get from  Verity as well, just with a grown-up cast. I’m not encouraged.

The storyline, broadly:

·      Boy meets girl in a rather morbid meet-cute.

·      Boy hires girl to finish vegetative writer wife’s incomplete novel series.

·      Boy and girl exchange sob stories.

·      Clearly, boy and girl are going to fall for each other.

Ugh.

·      Girl finds vegetative writer wife’s hidden journal/ autobiography that indicates the lady may be hiding some pretty awful things.

·      Girl thinks vegetative wife is following her around.

Holy heck, did this just get interesting??

Let’s circle back a bit. The girl in question here is a struggling writer called Lowen Ashleigh who is hired by Jeremy Crawford to finish a series of novels his writer wife, Verity, is unable to. Lowen moves into the Crawford home to see if she can sort through Verity’s notes to get started on the series and during this search, she stumbles across a manuscript written by Verity that looks like an autobiography.

Lowen is immediately hooked, mostly from morbid curiosity, because the book shows a side of Verity that is not exactly complimentary. In fact, it’s downright horrifying at instances. While Lowen realises she shouldn’t be reading this autobiography, she can’t help herself, but she’s also becoming increasingly paranoid not just because she’s naturally so, but because of the weird atmosphere of the place and Verity herself (who may I remind you is incapacitated). Meanwhile, she and Jeremy start to get close and Lowen begins to wonder if she ought to share the manuscript with him.

The tension keeps building till the climax, mostly in the last two chapters. Then things move so quickly, with so many unexpected developments, you kind of feel you have whiplash, but not in a totally bad way.

Lowen is down on her luck, has just lost her mother to cancer, faces eviction, and suffers from a bunch of anxiety issues. Jeremy has more than his share of tragedy too. This tragic persona feature is totally on-brand for a lot of women authors writing women-led thrillers. It’s not a trend I particularly like (and probably extremely unfair to dump it all on the ladies), but it’s also perhaps a reflection of the general state of affairs of the world too – everyone is a bit of an emotional wreck and on edge all the time. Women mystery writers from about a century ago injected a lot of underlying humour (or even satire) into their work, despite the trauma of two World Wars and The Great Depression, but I suppose they never had to contend with social media. Even Elizabeth George’s and PD James’s work, which have rather bleak settings, have plenty of underlying humour.

Despite that little rant, I didn’t find Lowen annoying or silly – in fact, I sympathised with her a lot, as well as a lot of the other characters. Their reactions to most situations were understandable and very relatable.

The most remarkable thing about  Verity for me was Hoover’s writing style. She knows how to set an atmosphere – I was constantly reminded of the Brontë sisters.  Jane Eyre in particular kept popping up in my head: a house with a weird dark vibe, a limited number of characters, limited outside contact, classic elements of Gothic horror. There were times I found myself holding my breath and becoming as paranoid as Lowen for her. I even found myself susceptible to some of the jump-scare moments. It didn’t help that I was home alone and reading this is in the dead of the night. And when I got to the end (immensely satisfying, I might add) I was both impressed and terrified. Honestly, I still can’t get some of the details out of my head.

Just as an aside, this whole book-in-a-book format that has started to pop up in a few publications of late is actually pretty neat. It must also be quite a feat, since the tones have to be so distinct. Hoover pulls this off with seeming ease.

However, my one quibble is that I didn’t really understand the secrecy behind Verity’s condition. What would be the purpose of hiding something like that for the publishers? If anything, wouldn’t it have bought them some more time? In real life, authors have died or been incapacitated before completing a book or series. Stieg Larsson was said to have been working on the fourth instalment of his Millennium series when he died and it was completed by someone else. It’s not a big deal for the story, but it just nagged at me throughout.

All in all, this is a captivating read that’s going to linger in your brain for a long while, whether you like it or not.

(Ranjana Sundaresan is an F& B analyst and a bookworm)

About the Book

Verity

Colleen Hoover

Hachette India

314 pages; Rs 499

Check out the book on Amazon here

Published on May 24, 2022
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