Author: Felicia Yap
Published: August 29th 2017
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 2.5 stars
Today, the police are at your door.
They say that the body of your husband’s mistress has been found in the River Cam. They think your husband killed her two days ago.
You can’t recall what he did that day, because you only remember yesterday.
You rely on your diary to tell you where you’ve been, who you love and what you’ve done.
So, can you trust the police?
Can you trust your husband?
Can you trust yourself?
Advertised as ‘The most compelling high-concept thriller of the year’, Yesterday, by debut novelist Felicia Yap, introduces a compelling premise and an original narrative concept. Described as a gripping story of love, betrayal, memory and identity, questions of trust swirl around this unusual psychological thriller.
Set in modern day times, but in a very different world to which we live in today, Yesterday looks closely at a dystopian universe, where society is divided into two different classes of citizens. There are monos, those who can only remember the last 24 hours. Then there are the duos, those who can recall the last 48 hours. Helping people bridge the past to the present are idiaries. These are a lifeline, assisting people to record down key events. When a woman’s body is found in the River Cam, police use the woman’s idiary to track down the possible perpetrator. This link tracks to Mark and Claire Evans. Mark, an author and an aspiring politician, has a mistress, the woman found in the River Cam. Mark was the last person to have contact with her. However, his wife Claire has memories of a bad event occurring, was she involved? It is a race against time to beat the memory clock and solve the case of this murdered woman in the river.
Yesterday is a ‘2017 literary event’, as described in the promotional material endorsing the book. Felicia Yap received plenty of early praise for this novel. Hailing originally from Kuala Lumpur, Yap read biochemistry and history at the University of Cambridge. Yap also had a number of different careers, including work as a catwalk model before penning her first novel. Yesterday is an ambitious novel for a debut writer. It presents a scenario that is almost beyond our realm of thinking. Yap shows us an alternative world where time and memory are the main focal points.
Where Yap succeeds in her novel is in the presentation of an alternative mode of living. This dystopian world, where memory divides society and determines everything, is an original concept that I have not seen explored before in other novels. There is a strong sci fi feel to Yesterday that didn’t work for me. However, I can see the merit in this angle. I particularly liked how the memory and the related technology focus taps into today’s society and our over reliance on technology.
Yap divides her narration between four main protagonists. We hear from Sophia, the victim of the case, Mark who is the suspect, his wife Claire and finally the detective Hans, who is assigned to the case. This gives the reader a well rounded picture of the main events and the case at hand. I did feel that Yap tended to skirt over the characters and the only one that I felt that was explored to some depth was Claire. She is also the only character that I developed some attachment towards. Each character clearly has their own secrets and failings, which Yap explores during the course of the novel.
A psychological thriller would not be complete without an unreliable narrator. Yap provides the reader with a number of unreliable narrators in Yesterday. Claire, Mark, Sophia and Hans are all plagued with memory issues. This makes it extremely unclear who to trust and which version of events are true. Solving the case is like a ticking time bomb. Hans, the lead police investigator, is reduced to a time frame of just 24 hours to solve this complex case. This adds an extra layer to what would be a fairly standard police procedural tale. Yap includes a last hour twist that works to heighten the mystery element of this tale.
Yesterday is not without its pitfalls. The main issue I had with this novel was the use of the idiaries. I had too many questions and what ifs. In the end, too much suspension of disbelief was needed, especially with so many distracting inclusions of journal articles, diary entries and newspaper articles within the narrative. In the end, Yesterday came across as messy and just a touch too implausible for this reader. I am keen to hear what others thought about this book.
There is no doubt that Yesterday covers an intriguing concept and it presents a society not too far removed to our own. Although I didn’t find this book overly fantastic and it did not live up to the hype it generated, I am very interested to read future work from Felicia Yap. I am sure she will present us with another fascinating concept.
Yesterday by Felicia Yap is published by Hachette Australia. Out now. $29.99
To learn more about the author of Yesterday, Felicia Yap, visit here.
*Book ‘Y of the a-z author challenge 2018