Book review | Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon


For our February book club, we met at The Hare & Hounds pub and the book we discussed was Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon.

The book is a bestselling psychological thriller that tells the story of two women whose lives unexpectedly become intertwined around an unsolved crime…

Alex is sinking. Slowly but surely, she’s cut herself off from everything but her one true love – drink. Until she’s forced to write a piece about a coma ward, where she meets Amy. Amy is lost. When she was fifteen, she was attacked and left for dead in a park. Her attacker was never found. Since then, she has drifted in a lonely, timeless place. She’s as good as dead, not even her doctors are sure how much she understands. Alex and Amy grew up in the same suburbs, played the same music, flirted with the same boys. And as Alex begins to investigate the attack, she opens the door to the same danger that has left Amy in a coma.” [Reference: Holly Seddon website]

What did we think of Try Not to Breathe?

Unusually for our book group no-one disliked the book! We thought it was as an easy read…one you could pick up at the end of a busy day and not need to overthink it to keep up with the plot. We liked the style of different narrators for each chapter; we liked the pace; we did get immersed and avidly read on to find out the ending. Although most of us did guess who was guilty of the crime before it was revealed. The alcoholism and relationship breakdown themes were a little similar to The Girl on a Train. And there were some parts of the storyline we didn’t find believable.

This isn’t a book that delves deeply into the psyche of the characters but we did still get a feel for the main characters. I won’t go into detail on the individual characters as I’ll end up giving too much of the storyline away. Some of them we empathised with, others frustrated us.

The character that interested us most was Amy, and even though this was a crime thriller rather than a portrait of life in a coma, it did makes us all reflect on how it would be if we or our loved ones were in this situation. Author, Holly Seddon, admits she did have to use some artistic license for the character of Amy as so little is known about long-term comas and locked-in syndrome. But she did use autobiographies and accounts of people who have survived and recovered. Seddon was also influenced by a memoir called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffered with locked-in syndrome following a huge stroke – using his only functioning muscle, his left eyelid, he dictated his story.

As always our discussion went in all directions…how far mothers would go to protect their children even when guilty of a crime; how common it is to know your attacker; the extent to which you can protect your children from danger, particularly now in the world of social media…and we also discussed ‘They Walk Among Us’ – a bi-weekly UK true crime podcast.

To sum up…

I don’t think Try Not to Breathe would be on our wow, must recommend list. But we thought it was a good debut novel and we would read the author’s next book. Try Not to Breathe is currently on sale on for £3.99

About the author

Holly Seddon lives in the Kent countryside with her husband and children. Throughout her fifteen-year career, Seddon has worked as a freelance writer and has been writing short stories since childhood. Try Not to Breathe was her first novel. Her second novel, Don’t Close Your Eye, is due to be published in July 2017.


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