Ready to discover a new book in 2020? I might have just the thing….
Red/Black by Rachel Atherton-Charvat
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Date Published: 11 August 2020
Print length: 453 pages
Trigger warnings: Mental health, loss & grief, depression, gambling
Sarah Hughes. Wife, mother, secret gambler.
Her life is one of stability and security. Settled in Cheltenham, married for over twenty years, lovely children but her inner trauma of losing a child in a car accident in which she was driving is reopened when her husband accepts a full-time posting to a military camp in Germany. Upon arriving in Germany, her underlying depression returns and she starts gambling online. The isolated posting and pressures of army life exacerbates her struggle and exposes the frailties of her marriage.
The stakes rise as her gambling escalates and she starts to realise her husband is not all she believed…
Admittedly, I didn’t take to this book straight away. Whilst I do read – and enjoy reading – contemporary fiction, the premise of Red/Black felt out of my reading comfort zone, which, coupled with the fact that I was reading other books alongside it, meant it took me a while to truly get involved with this book.
A wife and mother to now grown-up children, Sarah Hughes is a million miles away from me – and the protagonists I usually gravitate towards – but, as the narrative rolled on, I was captivated by her story. The beautiful descriptions of the town she has lived in for so long gripped me, being a very nostalgic person, I loved the way Atherton-Charvat showcased how places and memories stay with you. It is in these (I’ll admit, pretty lengthy!) first few chapters that we see her life as one of stability and security- showing just how much she has to lose.
It is when Sarah and her husband move to Germany that the story picks up, as Sarah has to navigate fitting in with the other army wives, the loneliness that comes with her husband being away and, after a horrible accident, she is confronted with the depression she has tried to manage for so long – since childhood, and again after losing her son – which leads to her gambling online. I found this side of the narrative incredibly gripping, as the security and stability in the first chapters slowly unraveled.
At times, Red/Black was incredibly hard hitting. It was an intense book, one that took a while to truly digest, but I think it’s important that Atherton-Charvat included the moments that were sometimes difficult to read as it highlighted Sarah’s sense of isolation and the fact that depression is extremely complex.
I think what I found truly gripping about Red/Black was watching Sarah’s relationship with her husband unravel. As she starts to learn more about the man she loves, I was intrigued to read on and uncover more details. Though it was a bit predictable- for me, at least – I really enjoyed the sense of mystery surrounding a man that, through the narrative in the early chapters, we – along with Sarah – think we know.
At times, due in part to the number of pages but also due to the subject matter, the book felt heavy to read. Atherton-Charvat packs a lot into this book, depression, deceit and the positives and negatives of addiction. Whilst it didn’t resonate with me, I think others will find similarities in Sarah ( relating to themselves or perhaps a loved one).
The final, first person account following the story’s conclusion illustrates the appeal – and the drawbacks- of gambling whilst also suggesting that there is a way out should it become a problem. This, and the conclusion of Sarah’s narrative, shows there is hope for anyone going through similar- so don’t give up.
A few “Thank Yous”
I wouldn’t have been able to read this book, or bring you my stop on the Blog Tour – my first ever, I might add – without a few people. I firstly want to thank Anne Cater, of Random Things Tours, for organising this blog tour (and letting me be a part of it!).
I also would like to thank the publishers, Matador, and Rachel Atherton-Charvat, for gifting me a copy of this book to read and review. I was gripped by Red/Black, which is Rachel’s debut novel, and I hope others will be as well.
About The Author
Rachel Atherton-Charvat is originally from Norfolk and later moved to Gloucestershire. She is married to a serving Army Officer and is currently accompanying him on an overseas posting in Turkey. She has previously worked as a history teacher and photographer, exhibiting her work in the U.K., USA and Cyprus. Red/Black is her first novel.
That’s my stop on the Random Things Tour complete! Don’t forget to check out the other reviews and interviews as part of this tour.
As always, you can find me (and more things books, baking and everything in between) on