Façade: Helen Matthews


“The problem with wearing a façade is that sooner or later life shows up with a big pair of scissors.”

I can’t remember where I got this nugget from, but it certainly does sum up this particular “Façade” by Helen Matthews.

There’s the central metaphor – the family home – seized by entropy and falling to bits, requiring too much deception, dosh and effort to keep going.

Then there’s the mother. She really does ‘wear’ a façade. At first, we feel called to to be on her side; so hard to cope with the loss both of a child and her husband’s faculties. But she endures and we sympathise … until we realise she nurses a destructive secret and all is not what it seems behind, well, the façade.

The fruit did not fall far from the tree in one of her daughters, an even greater manipulator of truth (and phone images), creator of false scenarios, a set-designer of life. But worse, much worse lies behind her dissembling. As events unfold, revealed to us are the workings of a malicious and narcissistic sociopath intent on cutting up her sister’s life. To leave her with nothing.

Helen Matthews creates a claustrophobically intense web of dysfunction in this family. I found ‘Façade’ compelling and infuriating in equal measure. The former because it was fascinating to see the truth unfold behind the veneer; the latter because I would definitely have taken a pair of scissors to Imogen.

Definitely.

Silence echoes louder than truth.

When seventeen-year-old Rachel’s baby brother drowns and her older sister, Imogen, escapes to live abroad with Simon, her musician boyfriend, Rachel must face the family’s grief and disintegration alone.

Twenty years later, Rachel is a successful businesswoman, with a daughter of her own, supporting her parents and their elegant Georgian home, The Old Rectory, that shackles them to the past.

Simon’s sudden death in Ibiza brings Imogen back, impoverished and resentful. Her family owes her, and she will stop at nothing to reclaim what she believes is rightly hers.

The rift between the sisters seems permanent. While Imogen has lived a nomadic life, filled with intrigue, in Spain and Tunisia, Rachel’s has appeared stable and successful but, behind the veneer, cracks are appearing. Now, she is vulnerable.

As the wall of silence and secrecy crumbles, danger stalks Rachel’s family. She must re-examine her baby brother’s death, find out what happened in Tunisia, and fight to hold onto everything she’s achieved –or risk losing it all.

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