Sunday, 13 July 2014

Her by Harriet Lane

Two women; two different worlds. 
Emma is a struggling mother who has put everything on hold. 
Nina is sophisticated and independent - entirely in control. 
When the pair meet, Nina generously draws Emma into her life. But this isn't the first time the women's paths have crossed. Nina remembers Emma and she remembers what Emma did . . . 
But what exactly does Nina want from her? 
And how far will she go in pursuit of it?

Her is Harriet lane's second novel and was published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson (an imprint of Orion) in hardback on 12 June 2014, the paperback edition will be released in January 2015.

I read and reviewed Harriet Lane's first novel; Alys, Always on Random Things in October 2012 and one of the comments that I made at that time was;

"Alys, Always is an excellent debut novel that is sparsely yet elegantly written, and leaves questions that may never be answered for the reader to contemplate."

Just like Alys, Always, Her is another elegantly written novel with an ending that made me shout 'fuck' as I desperately looked for the next page, and realised that there wasn't one, and that Harriet Lane had yet again left me wondering what on earth would happen in the next chapter, if there was one. But there isn't - it ends, suddenly and dramatically, and that is what really will make Her a memorable read for me.

Her is a portrayal of a toxic friendship that will chill the reader to the bone. Two pretty ordinary women; Emma and Nina meet quite randomly and a friendship is formed. The reader knows that they have met before, many years ago. Emma doesn't remember Nina at all, but Nina has remembered Emma for a very very long time and immediately seizes her chance to infiltrate Emma's life.

Nina is a master in manipulation. She learnt this skill at a young age when she made sure that her mother and father's relationship was fractured beyond repair.

Emma welcomes Nina's friendship because for the first time since she stopped work to become a full-time mother, she's found someone who likes her for who she is, not for what she's become - a mother, a wife, the person who cleans up, who worries about money.  Emma used to be someone, she had a successful career, she was a cherished wife and as much as she adores her two children, she's worn down by the constant demands on her time, the dwindling bank account and the shed door that's been falling off it's hinges for so so long.

Her is not a long novel, the hardback edition has just over 300 pages, but it's an intense and quite demanding read that is structured very well, but does take a little while to get used to.  Each scene and event is narrated separately in alternate chapters by the two women. The exact same happening, but told from two very different perspectives. This works, it works very very well and once the reader adjusts to the style, it's utterly compelling and very difficult to stop reading.

Harriet Lane has observed female friendships and created a relationship between these two characters that is horrific, yet will be alarmingly familiar to many readers. Two very different women whose lives could not be further apart, yet who want to be friends, albeit for very different reasons. Emma's chapters reveal the feelings of a new mother, the sense of the downtrodden, the worry, the guilt and the resentment. Nina's are a portrait in vindictiveness and revenge, disguised with generosity and smiles.

I am very very impressed by Harriet Lane's writing. She is so so clever and has produced a very intelligent psychological thriller that will certainly feature in my Top Books of 2014.  Her is a brilliant read - Bravo!

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Before the publication of her debut novel Alys, Always, Harriet Lane wrote for the Guardian, the Observer, Vogue and Tatler.

She lives in north London with her husband and two children.

For more information visit her website
Follow her on Twitter @HarrietLane_

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