Whilst not a big reader of crime fiction, I found the central premise of this debut novel by Elisabeth Krauel extremely compelling. Whilst everyone is capable of committing a crime, I found the exploration of a female convict one that was quite novel to me and not an idea that I have experienced much in the fiction I have read. The title of the novel works to highlight the central themes of the text: how does one form a sense of self post incarceration? Is it possible to bring back your previous sense of self? Besides these questions, the book also explore the motivations of what will push an individual to act outside of societal laws and structures.
‘Forgive and Forget’ begins with Alice, who is now 28 years old, being released from prison. Having lost both parents, her key motivation upon release is to find her sister Beth. The narrative structure of the text jumps between the present and then back to the past leading up to the events of the crime. I always really enjoy this structure as it allows the reader to really empathise with the protagonist and consider their motivations whilst deconstructing stereotypes we may previously have held. This worked with Alice, who I felt to be sympathetically and emotionally drawn by the author.
Her difficult readjustment into society is very much foregrounded by the author and issues around how one establishes their sense of identity when being defined as simply a criminal is explored in a compelling way. Alice meets hostility throughout and as a reader you feel the increased tension of this until the climactic ending; an ending I was not expecting at all! A gripping and thoroughly enjoyable read that is unputdownable.