Emma – A struggling mother who has put her ambitions on hold.
Nina – Sophisticated, independent and entirely in control.
When the two women meet, Nina generously draws Emma into her life. But this isn’t the first time their paths have crossed. Nina remembers Emma and she remembers what Emma did.
But what does Nina want from her? And how far will she go in pursuit of it?
I finished this book a few weeks ago and while it made for fast reading and was enjoyable and interesting enough for me to keep reading until the end, I found myself ultimately disappointed when I finished it. When I picked this up in Waterstones, I was in the mood for a good thriller as I don’t read many books of that genre. But I’m sorry to say that I came away from this novel distinctly unchilled and unthrilled.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t entertained. Harriet Lane developed the characters of Emma and Nina effectively and convincingly. The way Lane built Emma’s environment around her – the pressures of motherhood, the frustrations of an untidy home, the lack of a fulfilling career – really helped the reader understand why Emma is such an insecure and discontent woman. Similarly, Nina’s confidence in herself is entirely believable given her successful life circumstances.
Lane manages to contrast matter-of-fact narrative with poetic language, a real skill and something I really enjoyed about the book. It helps give real depth to the character’s emotions and vulnerability, which I thought worked much better than the passages that tried to convey Nina’s dangerous side.
The house fills with the particular atmosphere that accompanies peacefully sleeping children: a rich narcotic silence that creeps down the stairs and twines itself around the table legs.
From time to time – in the hammock or on a lounger, as the sun plays on my eyelids: red and black paisley, a languorous psychedelic swirl – I find myself thinking about home, and it’s always a shock.
There were, however, some parts of the book that broke the mould in terms of style that I didn’t really understand. Speech throughout most of the book is written in standard speech marks, but peppered through are one or two instances of sentences like ‘So I say, fine, let’s speak tomorrow, and hang up.’ Now, normally I am not so picky or pedantic as to care about something so small, but with the promise of a sinister atmosphere and chilling writing, I kept trying to guess what the writer was trying to (unsuccessfully) achieve with each deviation of normal style, and I found that distracting when that happened.
The real problem I had was when I found out the reason behind Nina’s nasty deeds against Emma. I won’t give away what it is, but throughout the book I was expecting Emma to have done something truly terrible to justify Nina’s need for revenge. But I was really quite disappointed when it was revealed. In my point of view, it just wasn’t enough. It didn’t ring true that what Emma supposedly did would provoke such a reaction from Nina. And ultimately, for me, it took away the credibility of the story.
What I will say is that I still recommend reading this book. I’ve read many reviews that disagree with my point of view, and you may find that you do too. But reviews should be honest and that’s what I’ve tried to be.