Apple Tree Yard is a novel full of surprises. It begins in a courtroom with the protagonist, Yvonne Carmichael, in the witness box giving evidence. We have no idea what this evidence pertains to at this particular juncture, but by the end of the first chapter she reveals her assumption that both she and her ‘accomplice’ are destined to go to prison, radically altering the course of her, to-date, reasonably well-ordered life.
The story is then told in flashback, beginning with a random and anonymous sexual encounter in the crypt of the Houses of Parliament. What follows initially appears to recount the tale of a successful woman undergoing a mid-life crisis, until events take a sinister and frightening turn.
Not all of us will opt for sex with a stranger at the seat of our country’s government, but all women can identify with an alarming situation that arises from a seemingly innocuous incident and carries with it life-changing repercussions.
I really enjoyed this book, despite my reservations about some of the choices made by Ms Carmichael, but I suppose even intelligent and independent people do irrational and stupid things occasionally. It has been described as a psychological thriller and is a gripping read, the author creating just the right amount of tension to compel the reader to keep turning the page. In the aftermath, one is left contemplating the exact nature of innocence and guilt and whether there can ever be a definitive line drawn.