February 16, 2015 Fiction, Review, Thriller, Women's Fiction 20 ★★★★

UnbecomingTitle: Unbecoming
Author: Rebecca Scherm
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: A fascinating story which stars a complex, relatable female character and has a satisfying, slow buildup of  tension.

At Julie’s job restoring jewelry and knick-knacks, nothing is what it seems – including Julie. In fact, her name is actually Grace and she’s not from California as she claims. Instead she’s from the small town whose newspaper she checks every night, waiting to hear that two young men who went to jail for a crime Grace planned have been paroled. Once they are, she knows it’s just a matter of time until they come for her. What she doesn’t know is whether or not they’ve forgiven her betrayal.

This book has been compared to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, but I thought it was so much better. This book is what The Talented Mr. Ripley should have been. In both books, the main character is something of an anti-hero, longing to have a life that’s not theirs so desperately that they’ll do anything to achieve it. The difference in the two stories is that Rebecca Scherm actually managed to make her character relatable. When reading The Talented Mr. Ripley, I never felt any particular sympathy for Ripley because I couldn’t understand his motivations. Although Grace wasn’t always (or ever, really) someone I’d like to be friends with, I ached for the absence of both affluence and affection in her childhood. This made her drive to preserve a life where she had those things at any cost far more understandable.

The pacing of this story is one aspect which did remind me very much of The Talented Mr. Ripley. The tension didn’t make me want to rush through the book, desperate to find out what happened next, but there was a nice, slow simmer of curiosity throughout. I do sometimes enjoy more fast-paced books, but the pacing of this book was just right for this story and it was fascinating watching how everything played out. I also have to commend this book for starring a fantastic female anti-hero, which is something I would love to see more of. Despite the fact that I thought this blew The Talented Mr. Ripley out of the water, I would recommend this to fans of that book based on the similarities and also to anyone who likes mysteries with a slow build of tension and/or complex female characters.

20 Responses to “Unbecoming”

  1. Cayce

    A book compared to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, and you thought Unbecoming was the better one??!! I need this book (I loved Mr Ripley!). Asap.

    • DoingDewey

      I should qualify this by saying that I didn’t like Mr. Ripley very much, so it’s possible our tastes are different enough that you shouldn’t take my advice on this one! That said, I did think this was very similar to Mr.Ripley in a lot of ways and I found the main character more understandable. It actually made my get Ripley more and I think it’s possible that if I reread that book, I’d like it better after having read this one.

  2. Heather

    I haven’t read The Talented Mr. Ripley but I remember the movie being super creepy and the book is on my TBR shelves! This sounds great, I will definitely look for it at the library.

    • DoingDewey

      I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to, especially given that I didn’t like Mr. Ripley and this was advertised as being similar. I’d recommend it 🙂

  3. Lindsey

    I read about this one but just wasn’t sure it was going to be my cup of tea. I might have to give it a second thought, though!

    • DoingDewey

      I read it right after reading A Small Indiscretion, so I wasn’t even really in the mood for this kind of book and I enjoyed it. I think it might surprise you 🙂

  4. Catherine

    I was debating whether to read this or not but you’ve convinced me! I like books that measure out the tension and a not-so-likable protagonist works for me.

  5. Laurie C

    I feel as though suddenly there are a lot of books being compared to The Talented Mr. Ripley, but with women as the main characters! I just read The Girl on the Train and one by Peter Swanson, The Kind Worth Killing. I’ll put Unbecoming on my TBR list, too!

    • DoingDewey

      I haven’t specifically noticed other books being compared to Ripley, but I have noticed a ton of mystery/thrillers with less “likeable” female characters lately. Although this is a trend I like, I think I could be getting close to being burnt out on it, having read several books like this around the same time.

  6. Melinda

    I haven’t read The Talented Mr Ripley, so I can’t figure out if this book is for me or not, even though I enjoy mysteries now and then

    • DoingDewey

      I’d recommend it if you like a slower paced thriller, with some tension but not a breakneck pace and lots of character development.

    • DoingDewey

      Honestly, I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it creepy, but it is a bit tense without being scary, which is certainly my preference! I’d like to try reading a few books in the horror genre, since I haven’t given it a chance, but I mostly prefer to avoid anything scary.

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