The Engagement

Title: The Engagement

Author: Chloe Hooper. Author of one previous novel,  A Child’s Book of True Crime,  which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and a work of crime nonfiction, The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm IslandShe lives in Australia.

Genre: Thriller, Literary Fiction

Readers: Accountant Gina aka Slappy, lawyer Cait, stay at home mom A Military Mommy and policy wonk BakingSuit.

Summary: Liese Campbell has an engagement for the weekend: to stay with Alexander Colquhoun, the handsome, well-mannered heir of an Australian pastoral dynasty, at his country seat some hours from Melbourne. Liese is English. She’s come to Australia to work at her uncle’s real-estate business and pay off her debts. Alexander has been looking for a place in the city. The luxury apartments Liese shows him have become sets for a relationship that satisfies their fantasies—and her financial problems. Both players understand the rules. Or so she thinks.

Across the ancient landscape they drive at dusk to his grand decaying mansion. Here Liese senses a change in Alexander and realizes that a different game has begun.

Chloe Hooper’s riveting and provocative new novel is a psychological thriller for the modern age, an exploration of the snares of money and love and the dark side of erotic imagination. A trap has been set, but how and why? And for whom?

Read If You Enjoy: Books that throw you off kilter, erotic fiction that isn’t Erotica.

Don’t Read If You Dislike: Books with a cold tone, books that keep you at an emotional distance.

Gina aka Slappy  Bio

You know those books that make you forget to feed your children, go to sleep, or do your job because you are either so engrossed in reading it that you don’t want to stop or you plan your whole day anticipating when you can read it again? This is one of those books. It’s a quick read with wonderful descriptions of the characters, their personal battles, and the scenery.

Liese is working as a leasing agent of sorts for her uncle simply because she can’t find much else to do with her time and she needs the money. A prospective tenant gives her something to look forward to once they begin an odd arrangement that carelessly mixes business with almost pleasure . When he invites her to his country home, she doesn’t know what to expect, and the outcome could not have been more unexpected. The book has you guessing until the very end.

This is a very well written story with characters that are beautifully flawed and a little like all of us, in a very strange way. I really enjoyed reading it and will be looking for the author’s other book, A Child’s Book of True Crime.

Grade: A


Cait  Bio

My copy of The Engagement came with endorsements from Jennifer Egan and The New Yorker, which is pretty heavy artillery behind a relatively unknown Australian novelist. I tried not to elevate my expectations too highly, because I sometimes find that I’m not in the mood for heavy literary fiction.

I had a little trouble getting into the story once I started The Engagement because I couldn’t quite pin down the emotional state or mindset of Liese. If that emotional distance between protagonist and reader was intentional, it was well executed. In the end, the book was not quite suspenseful enough to be a thriller, not developed enough to be a character study, and not sexy enough to be an erotic story. For all that, it was a quick read and interesting enough to keep me engaged. I would recommend it for readers who are into literary fiction and have a greater appreciation than I do for tight editing and economical storytelling.

Grade: B


A Military Mommy  Bio

I was not impressed with this book. I found it to be very slow without much character development. The book is described as a pyschological thriller; however, I found it to be more of a sleeper.

I could not become involved with the characters. I found them to be boring and had to force myself to finish the book. After all that the ending of the book was very anticlimatic. I felt like I had missed something important, like maybe a page was missing.

I would not recommend this book.

Grade: F


BakingSuit  Bio

I absolutely loved this book and wished there had been a part four just so I could keep reading. I very well identified with Liese in her boredom of life, wanting to do something exciting and falling into this relationship with Alex. The hints that he wasn’t quite right were dropped in the first part of the book (but easily dismissed), picked up in the second part (and you start to wonder) and come to head in the third part (start crossing your fingers she makes it out alive).

This book felt so real to me. I could understand how she took every step, how she started to wonder if she was the crazy one and found myself talking to her as the story unfolded. “No, Leise, this is a bad idea!” “Leise, do you really want to know what’s down that hall?”

The only thing I didn’t love about this book was the ending left a little too much open ended.

Grade: B+


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