I met Renee Knight at a recent event at Reading Matters Bookshop in Chapel-en-le-Frith. We had an interesting discussion about the genesis of Disclaimer which Knight wrote after attending a Faber Academy course. Disclaimer has been published to great acclaim and it certainly was a page-turning read. It’s a take on using an unreliable narrator to leave the reader exposed but I was also interested in the extent to which the book gives a realistic and often damning portrait of family life.
Catherine has recently moved into a new house with her husband, Robert. She finds a book she can’t remember purchasing which details an event that occurred twenty years earlier. So shocking was the tragedy that it nearly claimed the life of her son and she has never spoken of it to anyone. Someone, however, clearly knows the details and is taunting her with expose and retribution.
This is an interesting book with quite a slow pace to begin with that picks up speed in the last third. The two narrators are Catherine, desperate to discover who knows her secret, and a retired male school teacher who is taunting Catherine with what he knows. Knight does a good job in getting readers to try to discover what Catherine is hiding without feeling manipulated. Catherine isn’t particularly an easy character to like as she makes odd decisions and puts up with poor behaviour from both her husband and son. This didn’t bother me as I don’t particularly need to like a character to identify with them.
Ultimately, I found Disclaimer to be a damning portrayal of a marriage and the secrets that are contained within it. There’s a slight redemptive feel towards the end and I’m not surprised by the book’s success.