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I found this a compulsive and compelling read. Also rather uncomfortably close to home as I too found myself drawn, at a vulnerable time in my life, into a fledgling commune with a charismatic leader. And I too followed this leader to New Zealand and found myself, at a certain point, agreeing to sell my house in the UK to buy a commune house in NZ. A major family crisis drew me back to the UK at a critical time and I soon 'woke up' to what had really been happening in NZ. I realised I'd been brainwashed and it was only the support of family and friends that encouraged me to engage a lawyer to help me fight to get a very large sum of money back. This action was successful but, alone, I would have been too weak to fight back. I was terrified of the fall out and got a lot of hate mail from the commune. I have never returned to NZ. In the end it took years for me to finally free myself from the mental clutches of this leader. It was a harrowing experience but ultimately enlightening. All my questions about how intelligent adults get sucked into cults and brainwashed in this way were answered by my own experience. We all have our weak moments and this can happen to anyone. I am much wiser and more aware because of this experience.
There are books you love, books you read again and books you know you will remember for a long time. But I don't always remember the detail. This one, I most definately will remember the detail. A great read and I would give it more than 5 stars if possible. Charity Norman does not shy from difficult or controversial subjects. Cassie is a bright, intelligent 20 year old law student. She flies to New Zealand with her boyfriend for some adventuring before continuing her law course. After an argument with the boyfriend, she walks away and at this point, she becomes vulnerable. Enter the white van full of friendly, happy, welcoming people who offer her a lift, kindness and love. Beginning of what you feel you would NEVER get drawn into. But Cassie is alone, wet, cold, on the other side of the world. Lots of emotions in this book. Not just for Cassie but her family back in England. I found myself, frustrated and angry, sad tense. By the time I got to the last two or three chapters, I was beginning to nail bite (and I don't!) A lot of names to absorb in this, but don't worry if you don't get them all of the time. A big thank you to Charikty Norman. It filled my mind the whole time I was reading it and it will be with me for a long time to come.
I really enjoyed this story, quite an unusual plot line - young couple go travelling, so far so normal, but in New Zealand, Cassie, the girl, is persuaded to stay for a while at a kind of hippy community, led by a charismatic leader, who we discover later believes himself to be the Messiah. We watch the way she is persuaded and manipulated and brainwashed by these people. At home her family literally falls apart, unable to contact her, desperately waiting and wondering, while Cassie’s life changes for ever. The one thing which frustrated me was the fact that the people in the community are all given names of cities or countries - Aden, Rome, Bali, Chernobyl, Damascus. It is very hard to remember who is who with no clue as to gender! I wondered how on earth the author was going to find a satisfactory ending for such a sad story, where the parents are heartbroken and the daughter is kept brainwashed in the closed community, but the way the characters develop is very believable, and the ending too is completely plausible and entirely satisfactory.
There is no doubting Norman's writing ability and this novel is possibly her best yet. It is a compelling and brutally honest account of what happens when an ordinary middle class girl is sucked into a cult, while travelling in New Zealand. Cassie is at a very vulnerable point in her life, feeling pressured by parental expectations, out of touch with her materialistic boyfriend and with a secret worry that everything could make everything much worse. The author does a brilliant job of showing how a controlling cult operates - love bombing/sleep deprivation/isolation from loved ones/brainwashing - without making the mistake of turning the members into monsters. In many ways Gethsemane seemed like a wonderful place, free from the pressures of modern life - in fact subtract the charismatic controlling cult leader Justin and I wouldn't mind living there myself! One thing did strike a false note - a character seems to recover from the brainwashing far too quickly - by my estimates it would take weeks - but I understand that is necessary to drive the plot along. The ending is quite remarkable and raises the question - did Cassie/Cairo REALLY take a wrong turn in her life or was this her destiny all along? Definitely worth reading and nice to find an author who maintains her high standards instead of turning out second hand potboilers.
Highly anticipated this newest book from one of my recent most favourite authors. It didn't disappoint. Totally gripping from the first page, absorbing and "up put downable to the end" Another complex and potentially sensational story line covered with sensitivity, thought and kindness. I particular like how the story line unfolds from different people's perspectives, all of whom have a different and authentic voice, enabling a picture to emerge with often contradictory view points from characters who develop and change as the novel progresses. Again, as with other novels - you get a real sense of place, time and personality a real treat
I really enjoyed this book although I admit I didn't expect to. Very cleverly portrayed from all characters perspectives and very unsettling at times as you could see how easily it could - and does happen. The 'Rules' dropped in throughout the book were inspired but actually quite scary as could just as equally apply to the way the press and most governments treat the population. I notice one reviewer felt the transformation of Cassy to be a somewhat unbelievable in such a short space of time, but lack of sleep, vulnerability, to say nothing of changing hormones would make her an easy target, in fact sleep deprivation is a key part of many brainwashing acts.
I highly recommend this book but try and look at it as a bigger picture, as this brainwashing does happen on every day in every part of our lives, and this riveting book shows just how easily it can be done.
I just loved this book. It is a real page turned and so well researched. There are some great characters in the book and the scene is set so well. It is an area that I haven't read too much about - but it is certainly thought provoking. Biblical - and yet not biblical! A very satisfying read and I was sorry to get to the end. I await Charity Norman's next book as I have enjoyed everyone she has written so far.
Just one slight criticism - as a lot of the characters had their names changed to place names there were times when I had to think who was who, but I could see the reasoning behind the name changes.
I highly recommend this as a very insightful read...
I really loved this book; it was so much more than I expected even though I have read and enjoyed books by Charity Norman before. When I saw it was centred around a 'cult' I was expecting it to be sensationalist in its portrayal but actually it was so much better thought out than that and really portrayed a diversity of characters and what they got out of such a sense of belonging. The family at home was also beautifully crafted as it could have been any one of us and that somehow made it more powerful. You empathised with all the characters, perhaps with the exception of Hamish and many of them have stories of their own that are hinted at throughout. It was part family drama, part thriller and even part romance: it had everything! It was novel that was both heartbreaking but also heart warming and I loved it!
I have read a couple of Charity's novels and they never disappoint. She manages to take everyday situations but twists them in a credible way to craft gripping and moving stories. Both See you and September and After The Fall have stories that have stayed with me long after finishing them - not something I can always say about a novel. See you in September is beautifully written, the characters are well developed and believable and it is a compelling read.
This was superb. It was recommended to me. I’m not always keen on recommendations but this paid off in spades. Charity has a particular style of writing - not too florid, quite matter of fact but full of observation. She invests quickly and well in her characters. Such that I felt extremely sympathetic to the core family. I will not spoil the story for others. I have already earmarked her other books. I can in turn highly recommend this to first time readers of her book craft.