Afterwards, by Rosamund Lupton.

From Goodreads:
There is a fire and they are in there. They are in there...

Black smoke stains a summer blue sky. A school is on fire. And one mother, Grace, sees the smoke and rush. She knows her teenage daughter Jenny is inside. She runs into the burning building to rescue her.

Afterwards Grace must find the identity 
of the arsonist and protect her children from the person who's still intent on destroying them. Afterwards, she must fight the limits of her physical strength and discover the limitlessness of love.

I read a lot of books but Rosamund Lupton is one of my latest favourite literary authors. I first came across her poetic writing when I read her debut novel, Sister, a chilling tale set in London. (I reviewed it here...)

Afterwards is also a chilling tale, but this time the reader has to allow themselves to enter a world where two disembodied spirits are the protagonists. This is a leap for some readers and wouldn't appeal to everyone. Yet I found everything about this book - the cover, the writing, the plot, all magnificent.

I think the idea of the POV coming from a person the other characters can't see is a wonderful idea. And the main character sharing my surname didn't sway me at all! Here is a brief overview of the storyline. 

Grace Covey is at her eight year old son Adam's school’s sports day when she sees smoke coming from the school building. She is afraid for her children, a daughter and a son who are in the school. Panicked, she runs towards the school. She is relieved when she finds her son outside the building being minded by the daughter of a friend. Her relief is short-lived when she discovers her daughter, 17 year old Jenny, is still inside and Grace runs into the building, desperate to rescue her little girl. (You might wonder why she doesn't leave it to the firemen, but they have been delayed by the street parking of parents at the sports day and they cannot get their trucks into the grounds.)

Grace manages to find an unconscious Jenny on an upper floor and she drags her downstairs. Mother and daughter don't make it. Grace collapses before she can get both of them out of the building. They are
admitted to hospital, both seriously burnt and fighting for their lives. However, the real fight hasn't begun yet because it is revealed that the fire was deliberately lit. Grace believes that somebody is out to destroy her children and she is desperate to stop that person, whoever he/she may be.

Before the fire, life was beautiful and easy for the Covey family. They had it all - great marriage, beloved children even if Jenny was rather secretive about a stalker who actually threw blood over her. Is this the killer? 

Afterwards comes the fighting. Afterwards comes the time to appreciate the things that are truly important in life, to discover hidden depths of love and strength, especially of the bond between a mother and her children. Afterwards is the time when everything changes, forever. Afterwards is a time of sacrifice. How could their lives be the same afterwards?

I've already said I loved this story. I loved the mystery with so many possible villains and a very credible solution, although I was slow to guess. It's an absolutely gripping story with Lupton's characters captivating, and her dealings with emotions are both credible and heart-rending. 

This is one of those books I didn't want to ever finish, yet I read like lightning as the storyline had me in thrall. I can't wait for her next book.

L'Aussie's verdict: 9/10.


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