Book Review of Guilt by Joan Ellis

Guilt‘You died a month before your fifth birthday. You were probably dead long before Mum downed her third gin with Porky Rawlings.’

In the 60s, seven-year-old Susan is left alone with her younger brother when he dies of an overdose. The guilt informs the rest of her life. When it threatens to destroy not only her but also her relationship with her new baby, she sets out to discover the truth. What she uncovers is as disturbing as it is hopeful.




From that day, I loved school. Well I wasn’t much good at maths, but I loved English. Writing was a great way of getting rid of all the words and feelings that upset me. Dumping down my thoughts was my way of dealing with them and moving on. I could write whatever I wanted, lie if it made me feel better. Only it’s not called lying when you write, it’s called using your imagination. I did a lot of that. Made up all sorts. I was very good at it. Sometimes I’d re-read the story and even I couldn’t tell which bits were true and which parts were imaginary. Y’see, Mark, the trouble with writing is it doesn’t help you forget, it forces you to remember every last detail. But writing does allow you to forgive yourself absolutely anything.

At first writing was hard work, going over and over stuff, deciding what to put in and what to leave out but before long, my essays were the best in the class. They were so good the teacher read them out in the lesson. All the other kids couldn’t believe I had turned into a brainbox overnight. Even Paul Brown developed a grudging respect for me and found someone else to bully. Like I said I loved school. I would’ve slept there if I could. Home was too big cold and big without you. Dad was in his own world, a crazy place that I couldn’t and didn’t want to enter. I remember showing him my English book once. Obviously, I didn’t let him read any of my essays but he saw all the ticks, stars and full marks. I thought he’d be pleased, proud even but all he said was ‘Is that it?’ I never showed him anything after that.


This book has some of the best opening lines I’ve read. They pack a punch, draw you into the story and lead into the day that impacted on Susan’s life. All the characters are well developed. Some I liked and others (Susan’s parents) I found myself despising because of their attitudes to parenthood. Other reviews have described parts of the story as slow and/or difficult to read because of Susan’s depression. I found the pacing to be steady and the depression very well written. The complexities of the condition, and it’s effects on those around Susan, were well expressed.

The way that Susan was affected by Mark’s death was written in such a unique way through her constant talking to him. Explaining her thoughts and actions to him gave an insight into what was going on inside her mind. I was pleased that the book ended in the way it did and Susan could begin to look forward instead of into the past.

I highly recommend this book and thank the author for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.

You can find Guilt on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

You can also find out more about, and contact Joan on Facebook and Twitter.

As always, thank you for reading.

All the best,


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