Book review: The Eye of the Beholder

The Eye of the Beholder

Margie Orford

Jonathan Ball

Review: Karen Watkins

Fans of the creator of the Clare Hart series will not be disappointed after waiting almost a decade for a new story.

Dubbed the South African “Queen of Crime”, Margie Orford masterfully spins a spine-tingling tale as the pages unfold to reveal the relationships and secrets between three females and a male narcissist.

Knowingly or not, many of us have dated a narcissist at some point. They suck you in, drain you, leave you broken- hearted and fearful of getting into another relationship.

Known for writing about familiar places in and around South Africa, this story begins in an isolated cabin surrounded by a snowy wilderness.

Karoo-born artist Cora is fleeing the scene followed by art dealer Yves’ dog.

Unable to take the hound with her, she ditches him. He is later found by Angel who recognises him because she has been using Yves’ cabin as a base from which to collect video footage of wolves.

Angel searches the empty cabin and determines to find Yves. Her investigations lead to Cora who has been capturing stories of women who have survived war crimes and her own problematic childhood and turning this trauma into art.

But her fame recently turned to infamy due to her “Forbidden Fruit” depiction of a partially clothed girl. The varying viewpoints to this explain the book’s title – The Eye of the Beholder.

The collection of art sparked a media outcry and had police questioning Cora’s adult daughter Freya who lives in London and is trying to understand more about her mother’s motivations.

As the main characters’ lives entwine and collide there are dramatic consequences that are sometimes difficult to read.

At times the story is tricky to follow as it flicks through repetitive flashbacks often making the story disjointed.

However, it is a satisfying and thought-provoking read that examines dark issues of child abuse, online pornography and self-harm.

It is also an effective portrayal of women who refuse to be victims. The story also leaves much to the imagination, showing rather than telling.

The ending is predictable but all in all it is an atmospheric, emotional dark thriller of attraction, betrayal and revenge.