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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Monday, 11 June 2018

"Her" by Harriet Lane

Nina sees Emma on the streets. Nine doesn't recognise Emma. But Emma has a score to settle with Nina. So Emma starts to insinuate her way into Nina's life. Into her family. Into her children.

As the narration alternates between the two women, you realise that something is going to go very wrong for Nina.

This is a chilling psychological thriller distinguished by some wonderful writing. On the very first page the promise of the summer is polluted by what is deeply buried in a wonderful pathetic fallacy: “The golden air is viscous with pollen; but it's tainted, too, with the disquieting scent of the urban summer: the reek of exhausts and drains and sewers, the faraway stench of the ancient forgotten streams that seep through the rocks and silt deep beneath my feet.” (p 1)

Nina is a young mother who has sacrificed her career and the family's chance of financial security to care for her young children. There are some wonderful descriptions of how this feels:
  • Someone ... is practising Chopin in front of an open window, going over the same few bars, making the same mistakes.” (p 18)
  • For now I must sit here, trapped by my reflection and the reflection of the room behind me.” (p 41)
  • Lonely and yet never alone.” (p 78)

Even more disturbing are the vivid descriptions of the baby:
  • Here Nina is breast-feeding: “This is my job: to sit in an empty room holding this small unhappy thing close to me, allowing it to fasten onto my flesh, my milk pumping in, displacing the toxic silt which is waiting there in the plumbing.” (p 40)
  • This is what she thinks as she looks at the baby: "She's hot and damp and firm and squealing, an animated bag of dough smelling of farmyards. The urgency of her hunger makes me feel slightly sick. There's the usual wailing desperation as she tugs and strains, goldfish mouth flapping, fists flailing, her eyes screwed shut in fury.” (p 40)
  • Here the baby is tasting a banana: “Many emotions crowd her face in rapid succession: disgust, cautious optimism, greedy delight, and fury when it's all gone.” (p 103)
  • And after a flight, Nina sees herself as “A drained-looking middle-aged person, draped in children and exhaustion.” (p 169)

But there are other brilliant descriptions. Two teenage girls, nervously stroke their hair: “Self-grooming, a sort of tic.” (p 116)

Other great lines:
  • Above the trees in the clear promising sky a flock of birds: twisting and bobbing, rolling and weaving, cohesive as mercury.” (p 149)
  • The percussion of the main road starts to build: the distant wail of a siren, the sighs and expostulations of buses.” (p 149)
  • All this talk about ‘finding yourself’; often, other people show you yourself first.” (p 161)
  • This is the best time of day: new-minted, before the heat makes everything slovenly.” (p 194)
  • She approves of the baby Jesus ... he doesn't look like a bank-manager in a loincloth.” (p 197)

Breath-taking writing in the service of a story which got more and more tense as it built towards a nail-biting conclusion.

Wonderful. June 2018; 235 pages

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