Review: This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees


Everyone says that Caro is bad …but Jamie can’t help himself. He thinks of her night and day and can’t believe that she wants to be his girlfriend. Gorgeous, impulsive and unconventional, she is totally different to all the other girls he knows. His sister, Martha, hates her. Jamie doesn’t know why, but there’s no way he’s going to take any notice of her warnings to stay away from Caro. But as Jamie falls deeper and deeper under her spell, he realises there is more to Caro – much more. There are the times when she disappears and doesn’t get in touch, the small scars on her wrists, her talk about revolutions and taking action, not to mention the rumours he hears about the other men in her life. And then always in the background there is Rob, Jamie’s older brother, back from Afghanistan and traumatised after having his leg smashed to bits there. Jamie wants to help him, but Rob seems to be living in a world of his own and is increasingly difficult to reach. With Caro, the summer should have been perfect …but that isn’t how things work out in real life, and Jamie is going to find out the hard way. This taut psychological drama is the brilliant new novel from acclaimed Celia Rees.


This story doesn’t hold back on the punches and honesty as it sinks into the depths of darkness that most people would want to keep hidden.  It’s gut twisting in all the right places and my heart broke for all three of these broken souls.  They all have their own troubles and issues and in a series of meetings and decisions their lives become intertwined in ways that will never be broken.  The story is told by each character in their own way; Rob videoing his thoughts as a diary, Caro’s dark and deep journal notes and the thoughts and musings of Jamie.  Rob is an injured war veteran that is scarred mentally and physically,  His younger brother Jamie is trying to find himself after he’s feeling left behind by his friends and Caro is the moody girl that catches his eye with her strong political views and carefree attitude.  What starts as a potential romance story or even a possible tale about family ties soon evolves into something much more as we see the dark side to love, life and how destruction comes in many forms from war to words.

What I loved about the way This Is Not Forgiveness is told is the spilt POVs to the events and how differently each character see’s a situation and reacts to it.  Reading the same event from each character and how they justify (or totally ignore) their actions and the repercussions is so interesting because usually you’d only see one view on a fictional world but to have several elevates the landscape of story to a different level.  You both empathise and sympathise with the characters as you step in and out of their heads and see them as an all round person and the person they see themselves as in their own little world view.  Like in real life perspective is a very subjective thing and you can not right off some small turn of the head or look as a reflex when you then get that characters view on it and how it is a very purposeful action.

I was left numb by the end of the book because even as you read the story from each character point of view you keep switching your opinion as to who is in the wrong or even if anyone is wrong at all.  They each just have different lives and goals so that they don’t always have a meeting of minds but just clash in their scenarios.  This was a tragic tale but there was hope in there too when we see a glimmer of goodness in humanity and even when things are really dark there is a lightness that can redeem all 3 characters if they want to go after it.  

A spectacular read that sends shivers down your shine and warms your heart all at once.  With a master stroke eye for details and a dedication to conveying the powerful truth in the story Celia Rees shows us the power that people hold and what happens when they you this power for both good and bad reasonings with varying results.  

Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Bloomsbury Books and is available here and all book shops from Feb 2012


  1. Pingback: Blog Tour: Interview with Celia Rees, author of This Is Not Forgiveness | Sisterspooky

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