When you are a rational human being, with free will and agency, is there any such thing as a point of no return? That’s the question Yvonne Carmichael finds herself asking after she’s charged with murder in this dark, intense, wholly engrossing British import, Apple Tree Yard.
A well-known London scientist, Yvonne has spent her life on the straight-and-narrow: successful career, two grown children, happy if ho-hum marriage. (“The reason he ambles into the kitchen and asks for his car keys is not that he is incapable of locating them himself; it is to remind me that after many years of marriage, he still loves me,” she muses during their morning routine.)
Then Yvonne meets a mysterious man while walking back to her office after a routine meeting, and begins an affair. She starts making dicey choices, including a public tryst in an alleyway called Apple Tree Yard with thousands of commuters walking by just a few feet away.
Later that night, Yvonne is the victim of a savage sexual assault, and soon suspects her attacker is stalking her. Going to the authorities would risk uncovering her affair, so she enlists her lover to help scare off the attacker. But things go horribly wrong, and suddenly this woman who has played by the rules all her life finds herself judged by a wholly different standard.
Novelist and journalist Louise Doughty is a masterful writer, improbably making Yvonne a sympathetic, insightful character even as she is cheating, lying and generally making the worst possible life choices. Doughty also perfectly captures the quiet details of domestic life, the erotic charge of a high-stakes affair, the crackling drama of a courtroom. She dispatches the notion that we are masters of our own fate, chillingly illustrating how quickly we can derail our own lives.