Frances is a 30-something sub-editor, an invisible production drone on the books pages of the Questioner. Her routine and colourless existence is disrupted one winter evening when she happens upon the aftermath of a car crash and hears the last words of the driver, Alys Kyte. When Alys's family makes contact in an attempt to find closure, Frances is given a tantalising glimpse of a very different world: one of privilege and possibility. The relationships she builds with the Kytes will have an impact on her own life, both professionally and personally, as Frances dares to wonder whether she might now become a player in her own right.
©2012 Harriet Lane (P)2012 Orion Publishing Group Ltd
"Brilliant, Complex Story"
Frances, a sub-editor on the books pages of a newspaper, lives alone in her London flat and seems to be a forgettable, ordinary, beige person, who is resigned to a perfunctory life in an average world. But, as the story reveals, Frances is not content or beige; she is clever, she notices things, and she is patient. And her patience pays off one night when an accident gives her the opportunity to change her life and become one of life's elite.
One night driving back to London from her parents' home, Frances encounters a car that has crashed off the road and she witnesses the last few moments of the driver's life. Frances is asked by the family liaison officer to meet the bereaved family members; she is reluctant at first but when she discovers the driver was the wife of distinguished author, Laurence Kyte this changes everything. Frances seizes on the morbid opportunity seeing it as a chance to improve her life and when she visits the family in their exquisite Highgate home she attempts to ingratiate herself with the family, honing in on the needy, nineteen-year-old Polly Kyte, a drama student who is seeking comfort after her mothers death. The world of culture and privilege that the family inhabits seems within touching distance for Frances, if she can just play her cards right...
This is a clever story; it is beautifully observed, disconcerting, complex and strangely gripping. The narration is just right. My only complaint is that it ended too soon, I wanted to the story to go on and learn more about this psychologically complex character enjoying her master class in manipulation.
"An opportunity grasped with talons out"
This book is so subtle and written with such economy that it could deceive you into thinking nothing much is really happening. In reality what this presents is an insight into the workings of an arch manipulator. After witnessing the tragic death of Alys, Frances is quick to recognise an opportunity, pursues it relentlessly and in doing so utilises her the ability to read people and understand what is really behind their weasel words. Her friendship with the capricious daughter is a very clever set up, with the daughter mistakenly thinking she has the upper hand, and from then on the family are left open and vulnerable for the pounce.
This is life played out like a game of chess with many dangers and pitfalls along the way and what is ingenious about this book is its sheer believability. It leaves you thinking that every successful family must surely have a Frances living amongst them. The trick is working out who they are.
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