Book Review: The Split by Sharon Bolton
By Ray PalenMay 15, 2020
Tense, gripping, and with a twist you won’t see coming, The Split by Sharon Bolton is an explosive new standalone thriller about a troubled woman on the run to a remote glacial location on the Antarctic island of South Georgia.
Sharon Bolton’s The Split is quite a reading experience. The titular “split” seemingly involves the breakup of Felicity and her husband, Freddie. Freddie has been in prison, and Felicity has been safe from his abuse during that time. However, Freddie is now out and will do anything to find his Felicity.
Felicity Lloyd is a glaciologist. There’s not much of a call for that in Cambridge, U.K., so she takes up a two-year assignment on the remote Antarctic island of South Georgia. Transportation to and from South Georgia is treacherous and limited to boat travel for only half the year when it is safe to do so. Somehow, Freddie learns of Felicity’s whereabouts and makes good on his promise to go to the end of the earth to find her.
At this point, I wondered if Sharon Bolton had written herself into a corner. The novel was more than 450 pages long, yet Freddie found Felicity in the first few chapters. What more of the story could fill up the rest of those pages?
As it turns out, a lot. When the story returns to Cambridge nine months earlier, we find out what was really going on—and it’s a doozy of a tale!
It is revealed that Felicity is a troubled young woman and not just because of spousal abuse. Bolton introduces readers to her therapist, Joe Grant, whom Felicity is meeting to get full psychological clearance for her Antarctic trip. Joe notices that Felicity has much more going on beneath the surface—like a piece of glacier that breaks off to form an iceberg floating mostly underwater. He makes her agree to meet with him for six more weeks before he will consider giving his assent.
Joe also does a lot of pro-bono work with the area homeless population despite being violently attacked and almost fatally stabbed by a young homeless girl in his past. He learns that a man named Shane has been threatening the homeless and even harming some of them. This had made Joe’s police detective mother, Delilah, quite concerned for his continued work with both the homeless and strange young female patients like Felicity.
It’s not a spoiler to say that the novel’s title can also stand for Felicity’s mental condition. She has issues with losing time, sometimes finding herself in places she doesn’t remember going to—even waking up covered in blood. Joe asserts that Felicity is extremely troubled, but it takes time and a few very interesting hypnosis sessions before he realizes exactly what he is dealing with. He throws himself too far into her case and puts himself in serious danger by doing so. It’s suspenseful and fascinating and makes you forget all about the Antarctic opening—until we jump forward again in time.
At this point, not only is the mysterious Freddie pursuing Felicity to South Georgia but so are Joe and his mother. The revelations and plot twists during the race to the finale make The Split one of the best psychological thrillers of 2020.