Carpe Librium: “What Are Friends For?”


Sarah: People always talk about how stories focus on good beating evil. That everything is a fairytale because even when the ending is sad, good has triumphed. So what happens when good does not triumph? What happens when there is no hero, only villains?

The Things We Do to Our Friends is a psychological thriller that examines toxic friendships in a way that also addresses the social inequities of our time. A group of five college students at the University of Edinburgh from torturous pasts all over the world come together to create a dangerous business in an attempt to atone for the mistakes of the past.

Whose mistakes those are, you must find out for yourself.

The thing that makes this book so interesting to me is the madness of the characters. Their actions and words make you want to crawl inside their heads and find what makes them tick. The obsessions and dangerous desires, where they came from and how they came to be. How a character like Tabitha, the leader of the five, gained the power she has over each of them. The way she manipulates their desires to suit her own and captures their loyalty when they try to stray.

It makes me think of the phrase “evil isn’t born, it’s made”. This book makes you consider whether Tabitha was made this way or perhaps her madness lied beneath all along.

It is fascinating to me how the past impacts the future, proving over and over that history repeats itself. Our main character Clare, gets sucked right back into the past she had so desperately escaped as soon as she joined this group of isolated idealists. Her actions and reactions become similar, then almost indistinguishable from those of a younger version of her. 

Clare is wrapped up in a business so like the life she left behind and yet she cannot escape this time. She is enveloped in the intoxication of revenge and breaking the cycles for other people while keeping her own turning.

I think the ultimate purpose of this book was to break down the walls around speaking about uncomfortable topics like toxic relationships, loss and abuse. While this is in no way a feel-good story, there is something to be said about books you can learn from, that will teach you about these issues without having to experience them for yourself. It is important to note that not all books are meant for pure entertainment, and this is one of them.

Despite the seriousness surrounding the themes of this book, or perhaps because of them, I found this to be a very intriguing read, especially from a debut (first-time) author.

Ellie: I will always be a sucker for a perverted thriller — it is one of my favorite genres. I always love the tense feeling of the books and the toxicity of them. This novel did a particularly good job at keeping a suspenseful tone throughout the story while also exploring a complex set of characters, each with their own twisted past. 

I loved that from the first page, reader’s are forced to wonder about Clare’s past; what happened that fateful day in Perigueux, and why does Clare constantly refer to this as the episode?  The book consciously has this episode loom over Clare and the readers, and you cannot help but want to get to the end to unravel the truth of Clare’s twisted past. 

While this may sound just like every other psychological thriller novel, I found that what sets this book aside from others, is simply the writing of Darwent. Her intricate depictions of details as well as the characters themselves, is what sets this book apart from the rest. She does a remarkable job at developing her characters and unfolding their complex selves. 

For instance, she places Clare back into a setting where she is forced to relive her past, forced to view someone else doing the hurting. That person would be Tabitha. 

The cynical dynamic between Tabitha and Clare is the most toxic relationship out of them all in the book. Clare is immediately drawn to Tabitha, and for the readers it is hard to discern just why Tabitha is so enchanting. The back and forth between Tabitha and Clare, the love, hate, disgust, rejection, acceptance, is what keeps readers on the edge of your seat. 

Tabitha is Clare’s past reincarnated, and seeing how their relationship changes throughout the story was by far my favorite aspect. The reader’s can never quite fully understand the relationship between the two, until the disclosing of her past, where you see Tabitha and Clare are more similar than one may think. 

Lauren: Suspenseful, disturbing, twisted. Readers are left feeling one step behind throughout the midst of this dynamic novel as they struggle to piece together the intricacies of Clare’s life. Trying to reconcile bits and glimpses of Clare’s past while vying to grasp the true intentions of those around her, Heather Darwent’s The Things We Do to Our Friends fully succeeds in layering a plot thick enough to enthrall any reader. 

A story of toxicity, warped boundaries and psychological warfare, this thriller explores destructive power dynamics and poisonous codependency in relationships. Sucked into the glamorous and turbulent world of the Shiver clique, Clare is at first dazzled by the alluring and captivating lives of Scotland’s young elite. Tabitha, ringleader and manipulation extraordinaire; Ava, conniving and discreet; Samuel, charming yet cunning and Imogen, reserved and remote. 

The Shiver members welcomed Clare into their circle with open arms, and soon Clare finds herself entangled in a convoluted scheme that could ruin the perfect new life she strove so hard to craft. Walking a thin line between anonymity and fierce dependence, Clare struggles to balance hiding her own murky past and the increasingly tangled bounds of her new friendships. 

While I am not personally a fan of thrillers, Darwent was able to artfully portray the descent of a friendship into a toxic and deranged codependency, leaving Clare feeling trapped and abused. In a sick plot, the Shiver members are able to weaponize Clare’s past, and coerce her into doing their bidding, with Tabitha pulling the strings, the terms of their friendship ever changing. While I do not usually fall victim to the intrigue of mystery, this novel was able to wrap me up in its many layers. 

With vivid writing and skillful omission, Darwent’s writing was successful in drawing readers into the story, while still leaving them feeling as though they are missing the bigger picture. This addled and disoriented view of the story leaves a strong feeling of satisfaction and awe when all of the pieces fall into place. 

The Things We Do to Our Friends excelled at keeping readers guessing until revealing, through the combination of the ominous past episode and the present plotting, the complexities of the characters and their faults. 

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