As he arrives with his family at the villa in the hills above Nice, Joe sees a body in the swimming pool. But the girl is very much alive. She is Kitty Finch: a self-proclaimed botanist with green-painted fingernails, walking naked out of the water and into their holiday. Why is she there? What does she want from them? And why does Joe’s wife allow her to remain?
©2011 Deborah Levy (P)2012 W F Howes Ltd
Absorbing story with believable characters, dexterous inter-weaving of plot and the lives of the characters. I found the characters irritating, particularly the central figure of Kitty, the disturbed unwanted guest. The build-up to the suicide (although was there a suggestion of murder by Kitty?) of a central character provided tension and unexpected denouement. The moral might be ‘don’t trust strange young women’, or ‘how helpless we are as human beings’, the latter referring to the failings of almost all the characters, even the apparently strong female war correspondent, although she was the most resourceful. The inclusion of a teenage daughter helped to build the plot elements, but ultimately the reliance on a happy-ever after ending for her was weak, although it did tend to resolve the sense of the negativity of life engendered in the characters and the plot. Did I read it on a bad day?
What a lyrical and poetically written story. Vivid characters thrown together in what was almost an Agatha Christie setting - an isolated house in France with a very small cast of characters. And an unexpected ending which I had to play again. Highly recommended.
This is the best of this years Booker short list outside of Hillary Mantel's historic victory. This novel starts rather pretentiously but finally wins the reader over with its wicked wit, icy cool characters and cinematic narrative. Stay with it - it's worth it!
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