Louise Doughty is brilliant at writing about underlying resentment and the things we secretly notice about people but rarely articulate. I suspect she will remain best known for Apple Tree Yard but her latest novel ‘Platform Seven’ is a very effective domestic psychological thriller and likely to be another commercially successful one too.
‘Platform Seven’ opens with the suicide of a man at Peterborough station in the early hours of the morning. The narrator is the ghost of a woman in her thirties, Lisa Evans, who was also hit by a train at the station a year and a half earlier and the majority of the story looks at what happened in her life which led to that event, specifically the coercive, controlling behaviour exhibited by her boyfriend, Dr Matthew Goodison. On the surface, Matty appears to be a charming doctor who cares deeply for Lisa who works as an English teacher at a secondary school. However, he constantly wants to know where she is, secretly checks her phone, is suspicious of her other friendships, undermines her and blames her for everything that goes wrong. It takes a long time for Lisa to realise the impact this gaslighting is having on her self-esteem, her health and all other aspects of her life. For the reader, there are countless warning signs that the relationship is unhealthy. However, for Lisa, they all remain invisible until it is too late. While this means the middle section is slightly baggy, there is a purpose to it as Doughty outlines how long it can take for victims to realise the problem and leave their abusers.
Despite being told from the point of view of a ghost, the supernatural element is fairly peripheral to the story. Lisa is trapped at the station in a sort of purgatory, observing the staff and passengers who pass through every day, and gradually the reader understands why she is stuck there and how the second death at Platform Seven is connected to hers. The coercive relationship element is chilling and convincingly depicted and I hope the book helps promote some awareness of this largely hidden problem. Overall, ‘Platform Seven’ is very absorbing and leaves the reader with a lot to think about. Many thanks to Faber and Faber for sending me a review copy via NetGalley.