Fiction – paperback; Penguin; 307 pages; 2002.
As much as I know I overuse this phrase to describe books I like, I’m going to use it again anyhow; Katy Gardner’s Losing Gemma is a page-turning read that you can’t put down.
It’s a gripping story about two young English 20-something backpackers who journey to India on an “adventure of a lifetime” yet only one comes back alive.
The two female travellers have been friends since childhood: Gemma lacks confidence and is somewhat frumpy and bookish; while Esther, the main narrator of the story, is headstrong, pretty and successful. Unfortunately, during their travels the cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and both wrestle with the unexpected emotions this causes.
This is by no means an “intellectual” read but it has an intriguing undercurrent of menace which propels the plot along at a cracking pace. As one strange thing after another occurs to the girls on their trip, it’s hard not to wonder what will happen next. Of course, we are told right at the beginning that Gemma dies and despite the fact that you know this, Gardner holds your attention by not revealing the means of death until the very last moment.
The book also has an interesting twist at the end (although I guessed it fairly early on), while the descriptions of India and the intricacies of the backpacking lifestyle add an exotic flavour. And if you can bear the often whiny, self-obsessed voice of the narrator, this is a book to enjoy in just one or two sittings.