Opening Line: "You saw me before I saw you."
...would be how I’d describe STOLEN. A very different sort of read that would make a good book club choice because of all the symbolism and emotions the reader is left with in the end, not all of which are comfortable. I found myself suffering from Stockholm syndrome here because I felt for the bad guy. I really wanted a different ending for him.
The beauty of Australia is another reason I enjoyed this so much; the land just comes alive here; the dry burnt earth, the smell of eucalyptus, the endless sand and dust, the stars, the voice of the desert and how we’re like a grain of sand, insignificant in the great scheme of things. See I told you this was a deep read. The Outback setting is very much a main character within this story; brutal and giving, dangerous and loving. Yes, the symbolism.
I should also mention that Gemma’s story has been written in the first person as a letter to her abductor and it feels a little strange and clunky at first because of the way she always refers to him “-you grinned almost proudly, I screamed and bit you, you were standing in the kitchen” etc.
Gemma is sixteen years old, travelling with her parents from London to Vietnam via Bangkok when she meets a man in the airport. He buys her a coffee and seems strangely familiar. He’s in his twenties, good looking in a rugged sort of way and she’s flattered by the attention. Gemma never finishes her coffee. Drugged and kidnapped her next cohesive memory is waking up in a ramshackle house surrounded by sky and sand. She is nowhere. There is nothing for as far as she can see except rolling red dunes and her captor. She doesn’t even know what country she’s in. Of course Gemma tries to escape; she almost dies trying more than once.
“I knew as soon as I set off it was hopeless. Where would I run to? Everything looked the same. I could see why you hadn’t tied me to the bed. There was nothing and no one out here. Only us.”
25 year old Ty as the kidnapper is an intriguing character and he’s been written in such a way that you can’t help but feel for him as his troubled past is slowly revealed. Make no mistake he’s messed up but you understand why he did what he did, what motivated him. I think what creeped me out the most about his past is that as it turns out he’s been watching Gemma for years, literally stalking her since she was a child (that’s why he seems familiar to her) In his mind kidnapping her will save her from the world which has done nothing but hurt and disappoint him.
Their relationship is never sexual, never even hinted at on Ty’s part but he does love her and plans to keep her forever. He’s spent years formulating his plan and this becomes obvious when Gemma discovers the outbuilding full of food and supplies. They won’t need for anything; he won’t have to leave here for years. As Gemma begins to depend on him and understand that he’s not going to hurt her she also starts to see the beauty in him and the desert land.
Not a book I will easily forget and I want to give a shout out for the camel that made me cry (sob actually) and the snake that changed everything. Cheers