I read a lot. But I rarely read novels more than once – unless, like Climber’s High (or Seventeen as it was translated into English) for example, it’s related to my research. Novels are, by definition, meant to be novel, new. Part of the reasoning for not reading a book more than once is that I have so many more to read. Another reason is that you know what’s going to happen. If a book has twists and turns, or a surprising ending, is it possible to enjoy a book as much the second time (or more)? Thinking about this question was part of my motivation to read The Retreat by Mark Edwards again.
If I’m ever asked about my favourite books in general or my favourite book by Mark Edwards, I will always say The Retreat. So, having recently read and really enjoyed Mark’s latest book The Hollows, I wanted to see whether my answer would change having re-read The Retreat.
It is funny how memories can play tricks. I have always been sure that The Retreat was the first of Mark’s book that I read, and that Follow You Home was the book that sealed the deal on Mark being my favourite author. Doing some digging and checking on social media, I find out that I am completely wrong. Follow You Home was the first of his books that I read, The Retreat was the second, and it was The Lucky Ones that became that one that ensured that I would never forget Mark’s name (as I do sadly with many people – and means that I often forget the names of authors whose books I’ve enjoyed) and will always read his books as soon as I can.
That memories play tricks (or just give up altogether) also helps with answering my key question that I went into reading The Retreat with. Yes, you can enjoy the book all over again.
Compared to the first time I read the book, I knew this book wasn’t a horror book. I remember (for certain – no memory tricks here) checking the blurb again as I was reading the book the first time to check whether there was anything that would make it clear whether it was a horror book or not. I don’t read horror – I think I’ve read parts of a Stephen King book (it is ironic that two of my favourite authors, Mark and Sarah Lotz are huge fans of Stephen King) but that’s about it. I guess it’s a bit of a spoiler to tell you (if you’ve not read it) that it’s not a horror novel – but that should detract at all from your enjoyment of what is an excellently written thriller/mystery book (I do hate the pigeon holing of books into genre… expect for horror, so I can avoid them).
But I had completely forgotten the ending of The Retreat. Before reading it the second time, I could have sketched out large elements of the book and story, but the final chapter was as though I was reading it for the first time, which was a bonus. However, even before then, I had been enjoying the book so much again. As I have argued before, books, like life, are not about the ending, it’s the journey that matters. Mark is such an amazing author – taking a believable situation and believable characters and putting them into a story, which on the face of it, seems unbelievable. I suppose this is another form of the ‘pillars of truth‘ that I have discussed in relation to some of my research and particularly Climber’s High (since it was that book’s author, Hideo Yokoyama, that introduced me to the concept). Mark has a great way with words – the descriptions and conversations are so engaging.
Having just read The Hollows, which has discussion about ‘dark tourism‘, it was funny that The Retreat also has reference to the concept – albeit not using the term itself this time.
I think one of thing that attracts me to The Retreat is the location itself. It is close to an area that I grew up, so I can imagine what it would be like. On top of that, as an author myself, the idea of a writing retreat is one that intrigues me. I’ve never been to one myself – I rarely have trouble writing – though I do know how the environment you are in can heavily impact your writing, and I remember how much I got achieved on writing my novels Hijacking Japan, Tokyo 20/20 Vision and FOUR while away on holiday in places like Center Parcs or on a cruise. One of the things on my bucket list to do on a visit to Japan is to visit the ‘writer’s retreat ryokan‘ which I read about.
In relation to all of this two lines in the book stand out
every author I know is a mess of self-doubt and insecurities.
Dogs might be needy and difficult, but my God they’re not half as needy as you writers
An aspect about Mark’s books that I enjoy is that they contain “Easter Eggs“. Being one of his earlier books, I think this The Retreat sets up for future Easter Eggs rather than having many of its own – although I spotted at least one (I wonder how many I missed). I love these sorts of “Easter Eggs” and have included some in my novels (and also some of my academic books).
I really don’t want to say anything more about the plot of The Retreat. It’s a fabulous book and I would urge you to read it. Hopefully we will also get to see it (and Mark’s other books) on the big screen – or at least as a TV adaptation. I now clearly need to go and read The Lucky Ones again (I have now done this – see the review here). And then, maybe, I will be able to decide which really is my favourite of Mark’s books.
Here are links to Mark’s other books which I have already written posts about:
For more information about The Retreat see information about the book on Amazon.