Abroad by Katie Crouch – Book Review [Lady Salvatore]
Lady Salvatore reads and reviews
her first novel for TFF! Check out her
debut review of Abroad by Katie Crouch.
“Katie Crouch gives readers an intriguing mystery in Abroad. I couldn’t put it down!”– Lady Salvatore, The Founding Fields
Abroad by Katie Crouch instantly intrigued me. The premise of this novel is similar to that of the real life murder mystery involving Amanda Knox, accused of killing her roommate while studying abroad in Italy. In this novel the story is not told from the murderer’s perspective, but the victim’s. Abroad takes place in Grifonia, Italy; a city known as the party town for the students studying at the college. Grifonia is a true Italian city, with brick streets, cafes on every corner, a castle only a few hours away, and some dark history. The story is, predominantly told in the current timeline, but sprinkled through the novel are short stories told throughout history. These stories tell the tales of girls that died an “honorable death”. The atmosphere is dark and mysterious, but very lush, especially in its depiction of Grifonia. You feel as if you are walking with Tabitha A.K.A Taz, the victim, down the streets of Italy. If you haven’t wanted to visit Italy before, the description in this novel alone will make you want to go there.
Everyone in this book is suspicious; the snobby rich girl clique that call themselves B4, the attractive TA and the druggie neighbor boys. The characters are fleshed out and original enough that you get a sense of them and their story, but their storylines are not immediately obvious. I felt like these characters were people that one would expect to find in a situation like this, they very much fit their descriptions. The character that you see develop the most is Taz, you get the story of her life in Ireland and then see how her move to Italy changes her. She goes from the girl next door to a privileged insider to an unsuspecting victim. When it comes to B4 (Jenny, Anna, and Luka) they don’t develop by the end of the story, but you get more of their background, which helps explain how their characters came to be who they are. Claire, Taz’s American roommate, would be the second most developed character. As events occur in the novel you get a look into her psyche and how she feels about Taz and the others she has met in Grifonia. But it is some of the more underdeveloped characters that make the largest impact in the novel, which I enjoyed, as it was quite unexpected.
The story, while I knew the premise intrigued me, as a bit slow to start. It starts off with Taz telling her story, much like Quentin Tarantino. You know the end: she dies. But how did that happen? She then goes back and starts from the beginning. The slowest part was setting the scene, getting all the little background details that needed to be told for the story to work. Once that was all said and done, the novel kicked in, full swing. Especially once Katie Crouch added the little short tales of the girls that had previously died in what is modern day Grifonia. This instantly caught my attention and had me questioning what on earth was going on and how that connected to the story of Taz. I do think this novel was a bit different than I anticipated. I thought it would start off after Taz died and have her maybe narrating what was going on with the investigation and having flashbacks. I did not expect to get the whole story from the beginning, all from her point of view. I really enjoyed that it was written this way, but it took some getting used to. I did not fully understand why I was reading everything about her trip to Grifonia, but in the end it all tied together. Without Taz’s entire story the novel would not have made any sense.
I really enjoyed this novel. It is not the typical book you will find on the shelf nowadays. It is unique and goes about telling a story in a different way, which I think may take some readers by surprise. Abroad is similar in theme and atmosphere to a few of my favorite novels: The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Raising and Feathered by Laura Kasischke, and Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas (a Young Adult thriller). If you like those novels, or that type of book, I highly recommend Abroad. This was the first of Katie Crouch’s novels that I read and I’m very glad that it was. I have recently read the first novel in a YA series of hers, and while I enjoyed it, it was not as good as this one. This book intrigued and surprised me, I got a lot more than I was expecting, which for me is the mark of a great novel.
Katie Crouch is the author of two standalone novels set in Charleston, South Carolina; a YA series entitled The Magnolia League set in Savannah, Georgia; and Abroad, her first foray into a non-Southern setting. She received her MFA from Columbia University and did not really get going into books until she was 29. She is on Twitter (@katieacrouch) and has favorited and retweeted my Tweets about Abroad, which had the fangirl in me squealing. You can find her novels at Barnes & Noble or any other major book retailer, as well as at your local library, which is where I obtained mine!
If you are looking for a new and different novel, this is it. I’m looking forward to reading more of what Katie Crouch writes in the future.
Rating: 7.5 – Really enjoyed, despite some very minor issues, above many other novels.