Updated: May 20, 2021
The gruesome consequences of midlife invisibility. A woman's unheeded struggle with mundane life. A twisting, poignant tale of pain, disconnection, and murder.
Can You See Her? opens with the overlooked middle-aged Rachel confessing to murder. Now before you scream spoiler! let me recite the first gripping words of the book.
‘There are things I don’t know. But I know people are dead, I know I killed them, and I know it started the day I reasoned I was invisible.’
The events of Rachel’s life and belief she is a murderer unfold through her confessions and reflections. We meet a seemingly neglectful husband, an angry daughter, a perplexed best friend, and an intrusive neighbour through Rachel's perspective. Ostensibly at the core of her guilt is the belief of her apparent invisibility.
The tenor of the writing in Can You See Her? is often achingly yearning and melancholy, tinged with the wry humour of an invisible and unappreciated woman living a mundane life.
The invisibility of the mature woman
As a mature woman, I too have experienced feelings of being invisible. For me, it started the day I became an extension of my son’s pushchair. Not so much a person as a perambulatory appendage.
Unlike Rachel, though, I quite like being ignored, it’s a relief from the unwelcome comments and harassment we were subject to as young women.
Also married for many years with older children, I can appreciate how the repetitiveness of the unappreciated domestic grind takes its toll. The speeding train impact of menopausal symptoms at a time of elderly parent crisis is also a common disorientating experience for us mid-lifers.
This is where the similarity ends. I’m not a killer (even though the frustrations of daily life can often make you feel that you could be. Did that shopper in Sainsbury's really want that packet of marshmallows so urgently that I could feel the buttons of her coat pressing into my back and the rustle of her face mask in my ear as she reached across to grab them! – alas I digress.)
An intriguing thriller
S.E. Lynes cleverly interweaves the circumstances around the murderous events told from Rachel’s perspective with the police interview transcripts with other characters.
As Rachel’s story gradually develops, we increasingly detect an underlying intriguing mystery yet to be revealed. We are taken on an arc of understanding from depressed mother and wife, obsessed with society’s violent events, to a deeper understanding of her motives and her family’s responses.
(I was reminded in some places of Jenny Quintana's The Hiding Place as both women are searching for identity, albeit in very different circumstances.)
As with all good thrillers, there are twists, delicious twists, and Can You See Her? is no exception. Stay with it. It’s an intriguing and compelling read, and a delight to have the superficial stereotype of the invisible middle-aged woman challenged by creating the character of Rachel as visible and interesting and placing her at the heart of a gripping thriller.
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