So Pretty by Ronnie Turner

My enormous thanks to Karen at Orenda for sending me a copy of So Pretty by Ronnie Turner in return for an honest review. I love books in the Orenda catalogue and I was sure So Pretty must be something special if Karen had added it to the list. It is and I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Orenda on 19th January 2023, So Pretty is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from the publisher here.

So Pretty

Fear blisters through this town like a fever…

When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end.

Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.

Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely, and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.

As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.

Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.

My Review of So Pretty

Teddy has a new job.

Crikey! This is a book and a half. So Pretty makes your skin crawl, your heart thump and the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. It’s an astonishing debut with a creepiness and malevolence that permeates the reader’s mind every bit as much as Vincent manages with those who encounter him in the story. I thought it was completely brilliant. 

The plot of So Pretty is simultaneously fast paced and yet somehow measured in a blend of intelligent, mesmerising storytelling that meant I could hardly bear to read on and yet I simply couldn’t stop. I’d heard excellent things about Ronnie Turner’s writing, but I had mis-judged just how effectively she would get under my skin and repulse and attract me in a pitch perfect balance. I felt as captivated and manipulated by the author as any character in the book. To say a thing about what actually happens would be a disservice to other readers but my goodness this is a narrative that lingers and unsettles long after the final page is read. So Pretty is an incredibly powerful story, not least because there’s a visual quality to the writing that makes each detail vivid in the mind’s eye and whilst it feels Gothic and horrific it feels totally authentic and scarily possible too. I loved the iterative image of the apple – all the connotations are here from the temptation of Eve, through to one bad apple in a barrel to apples not falling far from the tree, and they add a sinister undertone that builds and ensnares.

The characters here are sublimely created. As there are relatively few, Ronnie Turner lends them an intensity and claustrophobia that almost feels as if it is tainting the reader even as Ada, Teddy and Albie become affected by Mr Vincent. Again, it is impossible to articulate too much for fear of spoiling the story. The control in the lives of these people by secondary characters adds such texture and depth. Johnny is only alluded to, never actually directly present in the story, but his effect ripples and reverberates with an almost Shakespearean intensity. Reading So Pretty made me think of the manipulation by Iago or the duplicity of the witches in Macbeth because there’s a timelessness to the beguiling and dangerous behaviour here. 

The themes in So Pretty are dark, disturbing, intelligent and perfectly explored. They impact the reader right into their very soul, creating a kind of heightened awareness in the potential for evil in the world. There’s a nightmarish sensation in reading what happens, making you think about the book continuously even when you’re not reading it.

I’m aware I’ve hardly said anything coherent about So Pretty for fear of revealing too much, but this story is a seething cauldron of obsession, of nature and nurture, and of the impact of distorted belief that is compelling, shocking and absolute genius. It’s a fascinating psychological insight into what makes humans behave as they do. I thought it was fantastic and cannot recommend it highly enough. So Pretty is a total triumph! 

About Ronnie Turner

Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature. She now works as a Senior Waterstones Bookseller and barista. Ronnie lives in the South West with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and taking long walks on the coast.

For more information, follow Ronnie on Twitter @Ronnie_ _Turner or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.