When Alex Morris loses her fiance in dreadful circumstances, she moves from London to Edinburgh to make a break with the past. Alex takes a job at a Pupil Referral Unit, which accepts the students excluded from other schools in the city.
These are troubled, difficult kids and Alex is terrified of what she's taken on. There is one class - a group of five teenagers - who intimidate Alex and every other teacher on The Unit.
But with the help of the Greek tragedies she teaches, Alex gradually develops a rapport with them. Finding them enthralled by tales of cruel fate and bloody revenge, Alex even begins to worry that they are taking her lessons to heart, and that a whole new tragedy is being performed, right in front of her.
The Amber Fury is a beautifully constructed psychological page-turner. It is a dark mystery of a novel about loss, obsession, and the deep, abiding human need to connect.
The Amber Fury was published by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books on 6 March 2014.
Everyone has to live the life they have, don’t they?
For Alex Morris, the life that she is having to lead is hard. A qualified but inexperienced teacher, she's landed a job in a Pupil Referral Unit in Edinburgh. Miles away from the life that she had back in London, where she enjoyed working as a theatre director and was happy with her boyfriend Luke. After Luke's death, Alex couldn't bear to stay in London, surrounded by reminders of happier times, smothered by her Mother's love and concern. She arrives in Edinburgh with a small bag and a new job, knowing that she has no choice but to 'live the life that she has', but she can choose to live it differently.
Natalie Haynes' very clever layering of this quite sinister and psychologically chilling novel is its beauty. The reader knows from the opening paragraph that something huge has happened, something that yet again, has changed Alex's life and how she will live it.
Alex is a solitary figure, she is closed and isolated, her character is consumed with grief and with loss and although it is not her intention to transfer her feelings to her small class of damaged and challenging teenagers, this does happen. For these kids, Alex is different. She is prepared to let them think for themselves and as she gently introduces the Greek tragedies to them, they begin to open up - not just to Alex, but to each other, and more importantly, they begin to understand their own thoughts and feelings much more clearly.
However, it is this opening up and understanding that ultimately leads to the defining moment of this story, and makes the reader question whether the damaged can in fact, help the damaged?
The cold and damp setting of Edinburgh and the old school building adds another layer to this clever and quite gripping story, and whilst the novel takes place over a fairly short period of time, the teenage characters grow in both size and in character, revealing so much inner fury that is alluded to in the title.
Yes, this is a thriller, it is also a very sad and realistic look at relationships, grief and longing. Natalie Haynes' debut novel is clever and convincing.
Natalie Haynes is a writer and broadcaster. She appears on BBC Radio 4 as a presenter of documentaries and she is a reviewer of books, films, plays, television and art on Saturday Review and Front Row. She has judged the 2012 Orange Prize (now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction) and is judging the 2013 Man Booker Prize. She judged Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel in 2010.
Her first non-fiction book, The Ancient Guide to Modern Life, was serialised by The Times in 2010. It has also been sold in the US, and translated into Greek, Spanish and Portuguese. Among many other favourable reviews, The Financial Times suggested ‘you shouldn't read AC Grayling's The Good Book without reading The Ancient Guide first.’
Natalie was also a stand-up comedian for 12 years, and was the first woman ever to be nominated for the prestigious Perrier Best Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She retired in 2009 to spend more time writing. She delivered the Voltaire Lecture at Conway Hall in March 2011, and is a judge on this year’s Booker prize panel.
For more information about Natalie Haynes, visit her website www.nataliehaynes.com