Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Someone’s got to make him pay…”
Last year, I picked Lisa Bradley’s debut, Paper Dolls, as my favourite read of the year, so hearing about The Lesson had me so incredibly excited. It did not disappoint! After reading this book, I think I might love it even more than Lisa’s debut (which I didn’t think was possible!) Another addictive and truly thrilling novel, one that refused to leave my brain for weeks! I still can’t stop thinking about the entire plot and just how much I love this author. I’m so happy to be sharing my review on the blog tour – make sure you check out the reviews from all these other brilliant book bloggers!
Evie has just started her second year at University. She is young, beautiful and popular. She should be having the time of her life, except she has something to hide – a one-night-stand with her English Professor, Simon.
Not wanting any of his other students to be used in the same way, Evie reports their relationship to University HR. But hours later, Village Vixen, the student gossip blogger, is baying for blood. She’s found out about the accusation and is firmly on Simon’s side.
But how could Village Vixen possibly have known? Evie can’t help but feel like she’s being watched. As paranoia and fear set in, the one thing Evie knows for sure is someone has to teach Simon a lesson…
Evie has a confession. She’s had a one-night-stand with her English tutor, Simon, and she needs to make sure she does the right thing by coming clean. She can’t live with herself unless she prevents it from happening again and again with other unsuspecting victims. The author stunned me yet again by just how easy it was to sink into her words, and reading the first chapter brought back all those great memories of how much I loved the author’s previous book. Evie is a fabulous character, as is her friend, Bronte. The pair were such memorable characters to follow and always had each other’s back. Aside from this main storyline, the author also introduces other characters, one of which is doing all he can to raise awareness of mental health issues after a friend, Josh, died by suicide the previous year. (Lisa, you don’t know how important it is to me that you’ve included this after I lost my boss/friend to suicide last month. Just reading this has helped me to process the pain and these new, strange feelings. Thank you so much. ❤️)
The story alternates perspective from student, Evie, to lecturer, Jenny, and then to Evie’s English tutor, Simon. Jenny is such a wonderful character, but someone with such weight on her shoulders. Josh was one of her students and it’s clear his death still affects her a year later. I loved learning more about this character and I found her absolutely fascinating. I was just as intrigued when learning about Simon. I found myself warming to this character in a way I never thought I would – learning about his home life and what he and his family have to go through each day tugged at my heart. However, does this really excuse what happened? What even did happen? I was really looking forward to finding out more about the bigger picture to help me organise the facts and draw those all important conclusions. As with any thriller, nothing is ever as it seems on the surface! The book’s introduction was faultless (as expected) and it sets us up for a fantastic experience. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into the details and get to know these characters even more!
“She jumped back, not even understanding for a second what she was seeing. Just a scrawl and colours. Bad colours. Something red and purple and slimy, something belonging on the insides rather than the outsides, dangling from her door handle.”
Evie has a lot to process, but her worries only escalate as she reads a post from student blogger, Village Vixen, almost tailored exactly to her situation with Simon. How could anyone know what happened? Is she being watched? Stalked? Should she be worried? If that wasn’t enough for her (and me!) to process, it gets even worse… I didn’t expect things to get so dark so quickly, but my god, I loved how unexpected and disturbing things became! I soon became concerned for Evie’s safety and made a mental note to keep an eye on every single character. Someone was involved and I needed to know who and why! Hearing the start of Simon’s version of events was really interesting, and the more we hear about those finer details, the more intrigued I became. There still wasn’t enough to pin the blame on any one person, but the journey we were taking was so thorough, exciting and so compelling to read. Jenny also seems to be a target as she too finds a gruesome discovery, which still managed to turn my stomach. The author already had me thinking of suspects, characters who might have had it in them to cause suffering to these two characters.
As we learn more about Jenny, it blew my mind just how much there was to this character and how deeply developed she was (just like all the other main characters, to be honest!) I was so desperate to learn her story and really get into the layers and layers of thoughts and feelings she has. There were so many other connections to other characters and events that we only get the bare bones of at this point, but I simply couldn’t stop reading and I needed to find out everything I could about all three of the main characters. Josh becomes even more significant which I was really glad about, and I found myself thinking about certain events in my life and all the whys and the hows you end up mulling over as you lay in bed each night. Surprisingly, it made my own thoughts a bit easier to sift through, if only for a short while. Every single element of the story so far worked in perfect harmony and I already knew this book would become one of my new favourites!
The more we delve deeper into this web of secrets from pretty much every character, the more I was sucked into their lives. I felt like mapping out every fact we’d learnt and I even began to feel differently about those characters I’d really warmed to at the start! This is just one of the many ways the author grabs you and forces you to become so tangled up in what’s going on that you can guarantee you’ll forget about reality for a while. Everything is so involving and perfect to get your teeth into. Make sure you don’t get disturbed while reading because you’re going to need all your concentration in order to not miss any crucial detail! The changes we see in these characters had been written well – take Evie for example. She and Bronte were great friends, but now Evie longs for time alone without someone who clings on wherever she goes. Each of these changes, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, was turning these characters into completely different people, and I loved how easily the author managed to sway my opinions on others.
I really felt for Evie as she is almost certainly being watched, but I was also questioning how truthful she was being. At the same time, she seemed quite genuine! Jenny continues to have a strange, cryptic aura around her, but I couldn’t ignore all the work she was doing for men’s mental health and for doing all she could after Josh’s death. However, a part of me wondered if she was doing all this because of the guilt she felt, and there was definitely something readers weren’t being told about her just yet. I loved the build up to all of this! Reading more of Jenny’s thoughts was so captivating, not only because I was so intrigued about her story, but simply because of the words used. The author has beautifully and clearly written about some delicate issues, but also twisted things to create her dark and mysterious storyline. I continued to love every minute and every word, taking each chapter and each character’s version of events and attempting to untangle what on earth was going on. I loved the challenge and enjoyed the delivery of everything I read.
“Too long have we ignored the rise of suicide in males. Too long have we grieved without purpose, too long have we wept silent tears. It is time to take care of each other, to not look the other way, to not cross the street when you see somebody in pain.”
Jenny can sense herself becoming too involved in Evie’s life, something that is all too familiar and makes her think of Josh, the person she couldn’t save. I loved the way the author always adds more layers to the story, but keeps things perfectly organised and makes you read faster and faster to try and get to the bottom of what was going on. I was so eager to visit each chapter and the cliffhangers after each one were so brilliantly written and really held my attention throughout. I was even so surprised with how emotional I felt in certain scenes, and even more surprised that many of these feelings occurred when we were visiting Simon’s chapters. There was one particular character that we’d heard so much about but never met, and at this stage, this character became very significant to more than one of the main characters. Could he be the person causing trouble and grief? Or was it someone we’d grown to know over the course of the book, someone unexpected?
Everything I read was so thought-provoking, and at the same time, the ending was impossible to predict. The mental battles these characters have to go through and the intense emotions felt as a result are passed onto the reader in such an extraordinary way, and I seemed to be continually impressed with how much I felt everything so deeply. These characters are so incredibly realistic, and the author has thrown in such a great mix of twists that really make this story unique, simply one of a kind. So many scenes stuck with me until the end, and just when you think the plot couldn’t get deeper, it does with such intensity. It’s unforgettable and I couldn’t wait to find out how the author rounded things off! I could sense something big coming, and even though we started to get some shocking truths with some unexpected characters by this point, I just knew there would be more excellence to come.
The author’s words were seriously impressive all the way through the book, but the closer we got to the ending, the more beautiful and descriptive they seemed to me. It might have been because of how much the emotions shine through each sentence, or maybe the fact that I felt so close to these characters now. I loved how we finally connect some dots, and some discoveries were so shocking it felt as though my jaw unhinged! No matter how closely I kept an eye on certain characters, the author still managed to shock me, and the unexpected change of events forced me to change my opinions on them once again. The way this is delivered was extraordinary, and I loved how thrilling and captivating each page became. Who could be trusted?! What else was going to go down and shock us even more? I knew there would be more to discover, and it seemed one particular character had been an incredibly good liar all along… no spoilers!
The pace and the urgency made my heart pound as the final few chapters arrived, and I became concerned for different characters for a range of reasons. Simon could lose everything; his family, his job, his sanity. Jenny is also quickly losing her mind as paranoia and panic sets in, and Evie might lose everyone around her if she isn’t careful. Things were certainly reaching boiling point for these characters and someone had to crack soon… I loved how consistent the tension felt all the way through these ending chapters, and just like the author’s previous book, we’re left hanging onto her every word as things play out in such a gripping way. I flew through the final chapters and had a few late nights simply because those intense cliff hangers just wouldn’t let me sleep! Incredible.
“‘Just listen,’ I told him. ‘Maybe you’ll find the answers. We often do. In such unexpected places.’“
One of my absolute favourite scenes had to be the hearing, a chapter where Simon is put under the spotlight and grilled about the allegations against him. This scene felt so real and the detail was so thorough it almost felt as though I was watching it play out on TV! If you love a good interrogation and intense dialogue and conversation, I guarantee you’ll love this. The shocks just keep coming and the way the whole meeting played out had to be one of the best scenes I’ve read this year. I don’t think anyone could predict the direction of the book here, and just the surprise of it all was so perfect to me! At this point, I had a solid choice of which character I was backing all the way, and I wanted to start the book again now I had this new frame of mind to see if there were any subtle hints I missed before. I loved it, and I wasn’t entirely sure if this could be topped!
I must admit, found some parts of the ending of the book difficult to stomach, purely because of recent personal experiences, and I did have a little cry, but I didn’t let this little blip ruin the book for me. It was only a chapter or so anyway! It’s so powerful, and I loved how everything came together. Twist after twist after twist is revealed, and that final chapter, that final sentence? The best twist of all! The author well and truly caught me off guard and I couldn’t bloody believe what I’d read! One of the best finales I’ve ever read in a thriller, there is no doubt in my mind. I was so engrossed in the words that everything else left my mind as those final pages went by, and I genuinely became so sad that I’d reached the end. Can I start it again now?!
I could write about this book forever and a day and still have amazing things to say about it! It’s such a rare treat when an author does everything right, and this book is such a prime example of that. I honestly believe this is one of the best books I’ve read, and I rarely say that! Lisa is an incredible author who knows exactly the kind of book I want to read and delivers every single time, and we’re only onto book two!
I spent days daydreaming at work, nights laying in bed thinking about these characters, their motives, their secrets, their lies… The whole experience knocked me off balance, and very few authors manage to give me such an unexplainable feeling of awe when I finish a book – Lisa managed it with her debut and this feeling was twice as strong with her follow up. The Lesson has quickly become one of my favourite books of all time, and it’ll stick with me forever. I think I’m tearing up!
A huge thanks to the author, Lisa Bradley, and Quercus Books for my copy of this phenomenal book – one of my new favourites! You can purchase your own copy of The Lesson over on Amazon now, available on Kindle or in paperback. Make sure you’re following lovely Lisa over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates.