I went a bit off piste last week but I’m back on it today and determined to stay on it. I blame the hot weather. Well you’ve got to blame something haven’t you? You’d think a heatwave would make you want to eat less and usually it does. But ice-cream is beyond tempting. And lovely cool cocktails. And even cake and croissants. I seem to get sweet cravings when the sun comes out. Why WHY? Go figure…
The winter, yes, sweet cravings and a strong appetite then, that makes sense. But sun’s supposed to sap your appetite. Oh well, such setbacks are inevitable but I am mostly sticking to it. I’m not drinking much – the cocktails aren’t alcoholic. I can’t drink alcohol when it’s hot anyway because I just get an instant headache so there are small mercies for which I can be grateful. And the sun is lovely isn’t it? Think of how much we’re saving on our lecky bills and how that’ll hit the shareholders who own the lecky companies. See! There’s always something to be happy about.
A menacing tale
And now for my weekly book review. Whether I can keep this up as a weekly thing I’ve no idea but for now, I’m going to try. I hope it makes the blog more interesting than I ate this/I ate that. I weighed this/I weigh that…
Last week I read HER by Harriet Lane. Actually I mostly read it at the weekend when we had a break in the weather and I thought, goodie! I can read now. Just as well it rained because I could not put this book down. It was a truly menacing tale. The kind where you gasp out loud and your hand flies up to your mouth and you want to leap into the pages and grab hold of one of the characters and yell DON’T DO IT!!!
Women’s fascination with women
Women are truly fascinated by each other and this book, much like Lane’s previous Alys Always (see last blog) mines that very rich seam. But whereas in Alys Always we knew why narrator Frances was keen to leap into someone else’s life, in HER we’re not so sure.
HER tells the tale of Nina and Emma. Seemingly miles apart their paths cross entirely by coincidence – or do they? Nina recognises Emma from long ago but Emma is blissfully unaware of this and has forgotten (or has she?) some terrible wrong she did Nina. And for which Nina now wants revenge.
Let me into your life
Nina ingratiates herself into Emma’s life. Emma is a harassed older mother struggling to cope with a toddler and a new baby and she’s looking back regretfully at the career she gave up to be a full-time mum. Nina’s done all that. Has a teenage daughter she hardly sees and seems very put together and very well organised.
She slips into Emma’s life just a bit too easily and Emma’s so grateful for the glance at what she thinks is a better world that she doesn’t ask too many questions…
Both women narrate the book, taking it in turns to give us their version of events, their perception and in this, I think your sympathies are supposed to shift. Mine didn’t. Mine were always with scatty, harassed, Emma not coolly detached yet dreadfully nervy Nina. By the end of the book I’d reached the conclusion that someone was quite barking and capable of something far worse than I’d ever imagined…
Lane takes you right to the last few pages to find out what it’s all about and upon what her hatred of Emma is actually based. Will you hate Emma too when you find out? Sympathise with Nina?
The room was azure
My only criticism of this book was that it was one of those what I call “the room was azure” books. It’s packed full of colourful descriptions, almost too much. I was sometimes tempted to skip a few paragraphs to get away from how azure the room was – or ochre. Or how smoothly the slanted sunshine slipped through the thin milk curtains and dust danced all around the room… you get the idea. I was more interested in what the characters were doing and more to the point why.
But that’s what makes this book a literary book I suppose. You can’t just have the whole whathappenednextness going on. You’ve got to know what it looks like. And in the end, colour does actually play a rather crucial role in the final, truly terrifying, denouement.
Well that’s me for now. Back next week, possibly with another book review. We’ll see. I’ve grown rather fond of these domestic detail novels turning the minutiae of everyday life into the drama it so often is. Life turns on tiny things says Nina in HER. Beware of women who seem to offer you a rescue, a way out…
This book has been compared to Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal. But for me, it reminded me more of the film The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Anyway, if you fancy it it’ll make a great holiday read though take something else as well. You’ll be through HER in just a few short azure-filled sittings…