Review: Bad Fruit by Ella King (2022)

Blurb

LILY IS A GOOD DAUGHTER

Every evening she pours Mama a glass of perfectly spoilt orange juice. She arranges the teddy bears on Mama’s quilt, she puts on her matching pink clothes. Anything to help put out the fire of Mama’s rage.

MAMA IS A GOOD LIAR

But Mama is becoming unpredictable, dangerous. And as she starts to unravel, so do the memories that Lily has kept locked away for so long.
She only wanted to be good, to help piece Mama back together. But as home truths creep out of the shadows, Lily must recast everything: what if her house isn’t a home – but a prison? What if Mama isn’t a protector – but a monster . . .

Review

Huge thanks to the publishers and the Squadpod for sending me a copy of Bad Fruit in exchange for an honest review. I’m sorry it’s been such a long time coming!

Bad Fruit is a fantastic debut – it is taut and compelling and fiercely original. What really elevates it is the level of detail, particularly of Mama’s quirks and whims. It’s all brought to life so vividly: I read the book with the taste of sour fruit juice in my mouth. And yet despite the intricate details, there is so much that is hidden beneath the surface – the novel hums with the weight of the unsaid. It’s really cleverly done – the trauma is deep and cutting, but never made explicit – and it’s all the more powerful for that.

Lily is a really interesting protagonist, allied as she is at the start of the novel with Mama and her strange ways. This complicity, and the difficulty of breaking away from it, is one of the most fascinating aspects of Bad Fruit – Mama gets away with her behaviour because she is allowed to do so, and in some ways Lily is her co-conspirator as well as her victim. The dynamics at play between all of the characters are nuanced and complicated, and there’s a kind of twisted pleasure in teasing them all out.

The unravelling of Lily’s memories, and the sense of the pieces of herself coming apart, especially towards the end of the book, makes for some of the most tense scenes in the book – at times there is an almost thriller-like feel to the narrative, as events unfold that you can’t look away from. It’s totally immersive, a book to be devoured in a couple of sittings, and one that will stay with me for a long time. I’m looking forward to reading more of Ella King’s work.

Bad Fruit by Ella King is published by HarperCollins and is available to purchase here.

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