The first novel by the young English journalist Julie Myerson
, published in 1994. It significantly draws on her experience of her own cold, abusive
, and cruel father, who committed suicide, a subject already often alluded to in her weekly columns in The Independent
. Here is how it begins:
Ede remarks, shortly after my father dies, that suicide is a death which leaves its traces, and at the time I find the idea almost comforting. Because I think I know exactly what she means.
It's only much later that I realize that I never did -- that neither of us knew anything, that his effect was only just beginning. For when you make your own death as he did, you deliberately stir the black silt on the bottom -- disturbing all that debris which should be left down there in darkness -- and it floats up, half-roused, to wreak its own particular damage.
But I don't have the benefit of this knowledge at the start. What I do have is a feeling of alarm, a hit panic which wakes me at night, a creeping certainty that something isn't quite right.
In the end I distil it down to a single icy thought: that if he really is dead and gone for ever, then why the hell don't I feel better?
is heavily pregnant
, married to the competent and paternal Alistair, but not entirely happy. She is a painter
, he a businessman; he does not understand her painting, and is condescending
. Through her friend Ede
the gallery owner she meets a young artist Lenny
and somehow they begin an affair, despite the fact that she is by now monstrous and hormonal
. Yet Lenny loves her in all this and knows how to treat her. They have passionate sex; they are pained, and confused.
And then there's the ghost. The little boy, his leg enclosed in calipers, clack clack clack across the floor, who comes to taunt and torment her. He is her own father, and the story moves into the past to explain his mother Queenie, cold and selfish and cruel. This seems to resonate throught the generations. Susan and her two sisters Sara and Penny have to cope with winding up their father's estate; but Penny, the favourite, the only one he would speak to at the end, seems to be turning into another loveless and heartless one.
This is an extraordinarily beautifully written book. The matter is intensely unpleasant; having read Julie Myerson's columns and seen her in person at a book reading, having exchanged smiles with this lovely vibrant young mother, I don't know what to make of such a tormenting tale, and can only hope that by writing she exorcised some of her demons.