What July Knew – Emily Koch

Summer, 1995.

July Hooper knows eighteen things about her mother.

Like number thirteen: she loved dancing on the kitchen table. And number eight: she was covered in freckles.

And then there’s number two: she died after being hit by a car when July was small.

She keeps this list hidden in a drawer away from her father. Because they’re not allowed to talk about her mother. Ever.

But an anonymous note slipped into July’s bag on her tenth birthday is about to change everything she thinks she knows about her mum.

Determined to discover what really happened to her, July begins to investigate, cycling around the neighbourhood where her family used to live. There she meets someone who might finally have the answers.

July wants her family to stop lying to her, but will the truth be harder to face?

Book Info: Print length: 320 pages. Publisher: Vintage. Publication Date: 26 Jan 2023

Emily Koch is an award-winning writer living in Bristol, UK, with her husband and daughters. She is the author of three novels: If I Die Before I Wake, Keep Him Close and What July Knew.

Her books have been shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award, longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, and selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month. The French translation of If I Die Before I Wake also won the inaugural crime fiction prize, Prix du Bureau des Lecteurs, in 2021.

If I Die Before I Wake was described as ‘a debut to be reckoned with’ (Guardian), and others have called her work ‘exhilarating’ (Daily Mail), ‘twisty, emotional and addictive’ (The Sun) and ‘tense drama’ (The Times). Waterstones have called her ‘one of the most exciting new crime writers of our day’.

What July Knew will be published in 2023 and is available for pre-order now.

Twitter: @emilykoch

My Review:

What July Knew by Emily Koch is a story about family secrets, grief and growing up. It’s 1995 and July Hooper is almost 10 years old. She lives with her father, step-mum and step sister. Her mother died in a car accident when she was a baby and she has almost no real memories of her mum. Her father refuses to talk about it, her stepmother isn’t allowed to talk about it and her grandmother can’t talk about it without crying and all July wants is something tangible and real to remember her mother by. She’s been collecting little pieces of information over the years and has 18 individual items of knowledge that she has compiled into a list.

Just before school breaks up for Summer, July receives an anonymous note telling her that her mother didn’t die in a car accident and everything July thought she knew is turned upside down. So now she decides to find out the truth about her mother, her family and what really happened.

Whilst there is no denying that July Hooper is a wonderful character and the reader can’t help falling in love with this quirky little girl, there is a very dark and disturbing undercurrent running throughout the book. It’s apparent from the start that July is starved of parental love and affection and will do anything to get her father’s approval. It’s pretty obvious that her father is incapable of showing affection and is harbouring dark secrets about July’s mother – but is he doing this to protect July or himself?

It’s not an easy book to read, there are many aspects of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse throughout the storyline and the reader can’t help feeling sorry for July and wanting to protect her.

Overall this is a beautifully written, powerful story with wonderful characters.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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