I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Things We Do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent
Published by Random House Publishing Group on January 10, 2023
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Suspense, Literary, Women, Dark Academia
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
She’s an outsider desperate to belong, but the cost of entry might be her darkest secret in this intoxicating debut about a clique of dangerously ambitious students. “One of the best suspense debuts I’ve read in years . . . Heather Darwent delivers one artful tease after another until you are completely lost in this labyrinth of clever women and obsessive friendship.”—Julia Heaberlin, bestselling author of We Are All the Same in the Dark
Edinburgh, Scotland: a moody city of labyrinthine alleyways, oppressive fog, and buried history; the ultimate destination for someone with something to hide. Perfect for Clare, then, who arrives utterly alone and yearning to reinvent herself. And what better place to conceal the secrets of her past than at the university in the heart of the fabled, cobblestoned Old Town?
When Clare meets Tabitha, a charismatic, beautiful, and intimidatingly rich girl from her art history class, she knows she’s destined to become friends with her and her exclusive circle: raffish Samuel, shrewd Ava, and pragmatic Imogen. Clare is immediately drawn into their libertine world of sophisticated dinner parties and summers in France. The new life she always envisioned for herself has seemingly begun.
Then Tabitha reveals a little project she’s been working on, one that she needs Clare’s help with. Even though it goes against everything Clare has tried to repent for. Even though their intimacy begins to darken into codependence. But as Clare starts to realize just what her friends are capable of, it’s already too late. Because they’ve taken the plunge. They’re so close to attaining everything they want. And there’s no going back.
Reimagining the classic themes of obsession and ambition with an original and sinister edge, The Things We Do to Our Friends is a seductive thriller about the toxic battle between those who have and those who covet—between the desire to truly belong and the danger of being truly known.
The Things We Do to Our Friends is a dark academia/toxic relationship-type story. I won’t mess around and get straight to it – this story did not work for me. It felt too long and convoluted, it could have actually been about 100 pages shorter and would have gotten to the meat of the story far quicker. None of the characters were remotely likable, which I think was entirely the point, but I personally need that connection point when reading a novel, something that connects me with the heart of the story, it didn’t have that for me.
Clare has moved to Edinburgh to study Art at Edinburgh University. It’s a fresh start for her after leaving her granny in Hull to make the leap of faith. She previously lived in France with her parents but an incident referred to by Clare as the episode resulted in her being estranged from her parents. She’s determined to make a go of things, make new friends, and not appear too outlandish. She soon discovers how expensive university is so the first thing on her list is to find a job.
She gets a job in a bar in the Haymarket, she has no cocktail-making experience, but she professes to be a quick learner. Finn, the manager takes her on but makes it clear that she can’t disappear back home at Christmas time as it’s one of their busiest periods. He seems to show an evident disdain for students but all the same, he seems like the most real character. He doesn’t pretend to be someone he isn’t. He’s gritty and struck true to Scottish men in general, truth be told I thought he was too good for Clare, and she should’ve counted herself lucky.
Clare has always wanted to be a part of a tight-knit friendship group. She hungers to be noticed by The Shiver as Finn calls them. Tabitha the ringleader, she’s stunningly beautiful and Clare needs to find some way of catching her eye. The group consists of Tabitha, Imogen, Ava, and Samuel. They are the biggest bunch of arseholes, that you would have the displeasure of meeting. Real mean girls/boy vibe. On the surface of it, they appear to have their lives in order and have everything but deep down they are deeply flawed.
Tabitha has the perfect business plan in mind that she reveals to Clare on a trip to France. She essentially imagines a honey-trapping business model. After some deliberation, Clare decides that she’s in. It proves to be a plan that is fuelled by Tabitha’s hatred for her father who is cutting her off financially after University and her LOVE for money. The whole thing is hugely toxic as is the relationship Clare finds herself a part of.
Ultimately I found myself more in love with the story setting. I love Edinburgh, its rich history and its quaint little alleyways that almost transport you to another world. The story, however, failed to leave any impression even with the impressively beautiful writing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Heather Darwent is based just outside of Edinburgh. Originally from Yorkshire, she came to Scotland to study History of Art at the University of Edinburgh, like her character Clare, and ended up never quite leaving. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her reading chaotic non fiction about Silicon Valley and swimming in the sea… or being unbearably boring in conversation about swimming in the sea. This is her debut novel.