Sunday, 5 October 2014

Her by Harriet Lane

Unfortunately the constant rush of the 'real-world' in which I appear to have found myself, has caused me to neglect this blog terribly over the past few weeks. I'm hoping to post a whole host of reviews and features this week to make up for it!

First up is a book that I recently read before attending my very first Elle Book Club event (thanks to my colleague, Frances, for hooking me up with a ticket!)

The book in question was Her by Harriet Lane and the Book Club took place in the very swanky indoor courtyard at The Hoxton, London. I always find it a thrill to listen to authors talk about their work as I find it so fascinating to discover what their intentions were when writing the book and how they hope for readers to respond (and then, more interestingly, whether my response actually matched their hopes!). Having found Her an extremely intriguing read, I enjoyed listening to Lane read three passages from the novel before answering questions about its conception.

First of all, let me tell you a little bit about the book. Her tells a story of two women whose paths cross many years after their first meeting. As mothers and wives, they lead distinctly different adult lives, yet they are somehow connected in a dark and sinister fate. What begins as a very simple and domestic setting is given a cutting, unsettling edge, as one of them - harbouring a deep grudge - attempts to wreak havoc on the life of the other.

The 'thrilling' aspect of this 'psychological thriller' comes from the way in which Lane builds tension through the alternating perspectives of the chapters and the reader's sense of unknown. To tell you a more detailed account of the plot would therefore be to rob you of the experience of reading it!

Listening to Harriet Lane talk about Her, it was clear that her intention was subtlety. In fact, she explained that the book wasn't about creating a complicated, clichéd story, but it was about playing on the ordinary person's worst fears. Lane even explains this within the text of the novel, where a certain passage of the narrative highlights the fact that over-contrived climaxes of stories can't possibly accurately reflect life.

It's in its subtlety, then, that Her succeeds in its ambition; to unease, to unsettle and to intrigue. I finished the novel feeling confused and troubled by the female relationship that had been presented to me, so I think Lane achieved her desired response from me as a reader, and, although it wasn't the most pleasant of reads, I appreciated the courage and honesty of writing something so close to potential reality. Lane explained that she considered it an act of flattery to not tie up the story into one neat, contained ending. For her, it is the reader who should choose what comes next in the book. I suppose to decide that for yourself, you'll have to read it first.

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