Books & Literature

Book Review: The Reunion, by Polly Phillips

THRILLER: When an invitation arrives to a University reunion, everything clicks into place. Emily has a plan. Because if you can’t forget – why not get revenge?

A thoroughly satisfying psychological thriller.
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Emily lives a comfortable middle-class existence with her wonderful, high-earning husband Nick and twin children. An active volunteer at her children’s school, she still sometimes mourns the degree she never finished. After three years at Cambridge University, she left on the morning of her final exam, having been humiliated by people she thought were her friends: boyfriend Henry, Will, and Lyla. Her successful journalist sister Helen helps her pick up the pieces, but Emily ends up waitressing in a pizza place, and avoiding anyone from her uni days. She eventually marries Nick and sinks into her role as wife and mother. However, when she and Nick receive an invitation to a 15-year uni reunion, Emily decides the time has come to front up to her tormentors, and gain the revenge she feels she owes them.

The Reunion is Polly Phillips’s second novel. Her first, My Best Friend’s Murder, won the Montegrappa Novel Prize at the Emirates Literature Festival in 2019.

Based on some of her own experiences at Cambridge (one hopes not quite as bad!), The Reunion is an intelligent examination of the class and clique divisions that still exist in prestigious learning institutions. The action begins on the afternoon of the reunion and continues to jump chapter-to-chapter, from that day and night, back to her time at university. We gradually find out what actually happened to her back then, and also  discover what form her revenge will take. Because Emily has pieced together what happened to her, we, and she, are at the mercy of her foggy memory. Is she remembering the incident clearly? Or is she mistaken?

The narrative rattles along at a good pace, taking enough time to paint interesting character portraits, yet keeping up the suspense and sense of urgency. There are plenty of twists, but not so many that it becomes a hot mess.

In the same vein as such works as Anatomy of a Scandal, The Reunion has some thought-provoking things to say about sexual assault and “revenge porn” within elitist universities.

Polly Phillips writes with heart, wit, and a sharp eye for psychological tension. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying read for lovers of the genre.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster
Released: June 2022
RRP: $29.99

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