“Jennie Ensor’s writing is graceful, poetic, intelligent and captivating. She builds suspense brilliantly, and is a master at dialogue that communicates the accents and personalities of the characters. BLIND SIDE is a wonderful debut, an exciting story about three flawed and fascinating people living in dangerous times.”
— Gail Cleare, author of DESTINED and USA Today bestseller THE TASTE OF AIR
“… a gripping tale. Whilst not the light read that this genre usually pitches itself at, this complex tale was an immensely satisfying read.”
— Cleopatra Loves Books (full review)
“For a debut novel this is a brave topic as [is] the time it is set in, but what Jennie Ensor brings is a thrilling psychological story that I really enjoyed and raced through. If you enjoy a thriller with a number of themes running through the story, then Blind Side is one not to be missed.”
— The Last Word Book Review (full review)
“Blind Side is a superb debut novel from the pen of Jennie Ensor. From the opening prologue to the very last page, I was completely immersed in Georgie’s story as we are transported back to London, 2005 – set before, during and after the 7/7 bombings.
The book opens with a short prologue that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I simply couldn’t read fast enough to find out what had happened. Jennie Ensor cleverly keeps us in suspense as we have a whole lot of story to get through before my curiosity could be satisfied.
…There are so many subjects and issues to discuss in Blind Side, that I think it would be excellent for book groups.
…Blind Side is an absolutely stunning debut from Jennie Ensor; so thought-provoking and profound that every reader will get something different out of reading it. I’m so excited to read the psychological thriller than Jennie is working on next. If it’s half as good as Blind Side it will be a cracker!”
— The Book Magnet (full review)
“The pace and the writing in this book was easy to become caught up in and I read this book over the course of the day without putting it down once. It’s a powerful and engaging novel, thought-provoking and difficult to forget once you’ve reached the end.”
“Blind Side both surprised and captivated me. It was tense and suspenseful at times, with some thrilling themes, so I can understand the psychological thriller branding but I think it’s probably going to be a fair bit different to what you’re expecting. I suppose it feels more real and believable, not to mention more human, and I could buy into this story much more than many other psychological thrillers. The book grabs a hold of you instantly with a spine-tingling prologue and it doesn’t let you go physically until the end – mentally not for a while longer as the themes are left there on your mind for much more than 300+ pages. A great debut – and I’m looking forward to reading more from Jennie Ensor in future.”
— Reviewed The Book (full review)
“What sets this book apart is the setting – the story takes place in London in 2005 in the run up to and aftermath of 7/7. Tensions are high and distrust is in the air. Nikolai has links to Chechnya which are hard for Georgie to ignore. Whilst I wasn’t in London during this time, the descriptions of how people felt, their anxiety and constant looking over their shoulder and suspecting people felt very real to me.”
— Once Upon A Littlefield (full review)
At the heart of Blind Side is a love-story – the classic love triangle of one woman and two men – that explores many issues of relationships and human behaviour ‘love and friendship, guilt and betrayal, secrets and obsession’ but more interestingly, importantly, also ‘confronts urgent issues of our times and contemplates some of our deepest fears’ Indeed, in Blind Side Ensor skillfully combines political and thriller elements, but while the aspects of 7/7 undoubtedly colour the story and heighten the gripping nature they add to the story, not detract like I feared.
— Poppy Peacock Pens (full review)
“A prologue that pulls you in and a storyline that doesn’t let you go until the very last page. This is such a thought-provoking read; pitched as ‘a thriller about a love triangle set in London before and after 7/7’ – it is that and so much more… Blind Side tells a compelling story that grips you in a unique way.”
“The characters of Georgie and Nikolai are extremely well developed and the setting perfect – living not too far from where these attacks took place, I feel Ensor really captured the true atmosphere that stretched across London at that time; the distrust was ripe, the fear was real.
I found it particularly thought-provoking reading about Nikolai’s experiences as a soldier in the Chechen war, you really begin thinking about the realities of war and terrorism, people’s attitudes and how they treat each other in the aftermath. Ensor has written a beautiful, well thought out and well researched story. A difficult read, in the sense that it touches on some very real issues, and really gets you thinking about society; a book that will stay with you long after reading it.”
— Keeper of Pages (full review)
“… I found this a unique and fascinating read from start to finish and was able to connect with Georgie immediately and so hoped for an ending for her. It had a well-crafted and well-researched plotline leading to a quite shocking denouement and I would certainly come back to this author again in the future.”
— Joanne Robertson, Amazon Top 500 reviewer posted December 13 2016 on My Chestnut Reading Tree (full review)
“An excellent and perceptive debut which made me think.”
— Cathy Ryan, posted 3 Jan 2017 on Between The Lines
“… The writing drew me in, the descriptions neither graphic nor lacking in detail and the story truly compelling, a prime example of the danger of lies and prejudice.
This book has a little of something for everyone. A psychological element as we follow Georgie’s stalker and wonder how far he is willing to take things to make her love him and believe me when I say that this element leads to a surprising ending. You have a love story, a kind of against all odds relationship between Georgie and Nikolai which is passionate but in the same sense almost sweet. Finally you have well researched history and essence of social commentary which, sadly, is as relevant and fresh today as it would have been back in 2005.”
— JenMed75 Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer posted 4 Jan 2017 (full review)
“… I do love a good book that seems to crawl under your skin and make you tingle and this one does just that because it makes you doubt what you think is happening and before you know it you are looking at all the characters in the story through different eyes. I definitely developed trust issues. This is a very cleverly thought out novel set in 2005 round the time of 7/7 bombings of the London transport system by terrorists. It raises a lot issues and suspicions and the question of how far is someone willing to go for something they believe in either as part of a group or for personal reasons.
I really loved how the author wove these stories together, each being a good story in itself but much more powerful as one. The characters had a real feel about them, I think even more so because none of them were perfect and not always likeable.”
— Susan Hampson posted January 8, 2017 in Books from Dusk Till Dawn (LINK)
“… as the story kept unfolding I didn’t know who to trust, which made me just want to read even faster. Blind Side is a story that will keep you up until the early hours, totally gripping and full of suspense. A fantastic debut by Jennie Ensor and one I will highly recommend.”
— Dee-Cee posted 10 January 2017 in Its all about the books (LINK)
Reactions to an early draft of the novel posted 2014-15 on Authonomy.com
March 2015: Selected by HarperCollins for One To Watch Wednesday in the Authonomy blog.
Hi Jennie, I’m on Ch2 and it’s bloody brilliant. Captivating right from the start. High Stars and it is with pleasure that I keep reading.
This is beautifully written, with very good description. I can easily picture each scene. Your characters are well developed and feel real.
Your descriptions of London are wonderful. I feel like I’ve been there and might be able to get around. I loved the descriptions of the neighborhood where Nikolai lived, with the smells, food, and foreigners. Well done.
Chechen ghost hunting in London; a brief treatise.
As the dialogue, narrative structure and descriptive ability of Jennie Ensor’s ‘The Ghosts of Chechnya’ are all first-rate professional quality I skip them entirely except to type a grudging ‘wow’. This is excellent writing so let’s get to the fun business of dissecting the characters; Georgie, Nikolai and Julian.
The creation of a person is not a matter of assigning hair color, body type and back-story. Gods and authors build people by defining the dynamic stresses and watching how they rebel, repel, revel, explode, implode, or just sag like the dream-denied heavy load.
Georgie: “I found myself thinking about the Russian. His full lips parting in a lazy, skewed-to-the-side smile. Words tumbling from his lips with that endearingly not-quite-right pronunciation, the stress on the wrong syllable or the wrong word, so that I’d have to replay what he was saying in my head as he went along… All day long he’d been there, in my head, daring me.
Besides being damned good writing, that is excellent people-creation. Not primarily of HIM, but of HER. Georgie is attracted to someone who dares her… to what? Love? Copulate? Take a walk on the wild side or Finsbury Park? She thinks she wants to dare herself to love. But we readers note this war-scarred alien tried to karate-chop her at first contact, while she brooded dissatisfied over her dull but trustworthy but dull friend wanting to be a lover. You hear her eyes roll as she mentions her successful career. Sure, Georgie longs for love; but what’s haunting her head is the lure of an adrenalin-charge. The real thing, not the ‘wonder-woman’ placebo-thrills she markets.
Consider that she keeps spilling beer on a man whose first summation is ‘not many men would be able to take him on.’ She keeps poking him about being a soldier while observing as distaste, anger and displeasure are his reactions. Nikolai is being followed by foreign agents or ghosts in his broken head. Georgie: ‘He was like a box of fireworks that had been stored for too long, one that might explode in your face at any moment.’
Clearly, she may be longing for love but she is looking for trouble. Is that deliberate sabotage to avoid commitment? Only God and Ensor know. Oh heck, we know too. ‘Course it is.
And it goes deeper than the natural reluctance of a child of divorced parents to commit.
Georgie: “Sometimes I feel there’s something missing from me. Like I’m a recipe that’s gone wrong, someone’s left out an important ingredient.”
Nikolai: “Me too, my recipe has gone wrong. Whoever eats me will spit me out.”
It is never difficult to trace faulty emotional wiring back to the parents. Georgie describing her real mother: “I couldn’t really understand why she’d gone, why she loved this guy more than she loved me. I thought it must be because I was defective in some way, unlovable.” Georgie went into marketing under her father’s pressure. “As ever unsure of myself and my abilities, I’d listened when he told me that bioscience research was highly competitive, a field few could succeed in.” Another reason to be dissatisfied, to jerk at restraints.
Speaking of dissatisfied jerks, poor Julian! Obsessed with bridges, yet unable to build even a rickety rope-crossing to Georgie’s romantic side. “Then he turned to me, a trace of a sneer on his lips. ‘I knew it would frighten you.’ Georgie thinks nicely about him; yet Julian comes across as neither nice nor safe. Has she been cultivating a ten-year friendship with someone obsessed with her, as a long-term investment in disaster? Georgie: “I don’t want to just drop him, after all these years. But he makes me uneasy.’
Makes her ‘Uneasy?’ Julian creeps me out.
But all this comes through Georgie. She is not self-ignorant. She knows her patterns. Describing her first broken heart: “I went a bit crazy, I didn’t want to need anyone ever again… I took so many risks – hitchhiking to save money, staying with people I didn’t know, sleeping with half the guys I met…’ I smiled. ‘Now, of course, I’m much more sensible.’
Good. Now that we’ve created our model of Georgie, let’s destroy it. People aren’t pining to be victims just because friends have a jerk side. They aren’t self-destructive for being attracted to someone interesting. Nikolai is a vulnerable romantic soldier-musician. Why they hell shouldn’t she flirt with him? Nor does anyone make life-decisions without someone (especially parents) prodding us to go left instead of right. And the only proper way to behave after a broken heart IS crazy. A heart wounded, deserves the ceremony of madness.
Look at Georgie not as a character in a plot but just some acquaintance sitting across you on the subway, and fill in the flat facts. She’s sane, responsible, neither a coward nor a self-destructing drug-using adrenalin-junkie. She has an official gang of sincere friends. She’s self-supporting despite a rich background, a young woman who has already dared career, love and friendships despite her admitted fears to commit.
I see a hand raised in the back, asking a question that appears early in the book. ‘Is Georgie a good person?’ It isn’t up to Jennie Ensor. That’s a decision of the character she created. Is Nikolai, is Julian? Are you? We shall see.
Nikolai certainly doesn’t think of himself as good. ‘At night, I change to evil wolf. I leap on helpless virgins while they sleep. They scream, I sink my teeth into their necks and suck their blood. At home they call me “Mad Nikolai”, you know. All the people in my town, they are afraid of me.’ Georgie’s reaction to that: ‘A smile overran my face.’
There is no more sinister growl than for someone (Nikolai) to declare “I will never hurt you.” Which validates our first model; Georgie seeks trouble. But: consider a different interpretation. She sees someone in pain and knows she can help. Georgie: “‘You’re not alone. I can help you.’”
Consider that the attraction may be the opportunity to be significant to another human; not just to be someone loved but someone worthy of being loved. For a mother, a best friend, a first love all to reject you can make you feel unworthy of love itself. That feeling is anguish; and explains Georgie’s deepest pain. So consider what Georgie seeks most deeply is not excitement, but significance. In which case by seeking out Nikolai she is seeking healing, not sabotage for herself. But oh god, what a risk she is taking.
Nikolai: “You listen and do not judge… I feel your heart is with me.’ He smiled. ‘Though you are scared of what terrible things I will do to you.’”
Bah. Enough of character models! You want to understand Georgie? Here.
Nikolai: What do you want?
Georgie: I want someone to share my life with.’ It sounded odd, aloud; I’d never admitted it to anyone before. ‘But I’m worried about what might happen if I fall for someone and the same thing happens as before.
There it is. For most of us, the best model of Georgie is going to be a mirror; naturally adjusted for height, weight and gender.
Question from the back: What chance do these characters have in such a foreshadowed plot of heartbreak and paranoia? We don’t have the complete text, but there is also foreshadowing of hope. Consider as Nikolai talks about his music in a way that allows his creator to talk about Her plot: “It is many stews in one pot. Gypsy music, folk, baroque… I am not sure where it goes. I will wait to see what comes -’” And Georgie hears the music and thinks: “A delicate melody, repeating and shifting, becoming darker and ominous, fracturing into a series of jangling chords, rising to a crescendo. Then a ghost of the melody resumed, serene, like a glimpse of heaven.”
Ghosts in the music, ghosts in the story, ghosts in the heads of the people deciding who they are, and who they are going to be to each other. Which is all but to place the ghosts of these characters in our imagination.
Authonomy should be proud for the honor of the haunting.
Raymond Holland (Ornithograph)