Will repost my thoughts after review published.
Will repost my thoughts after review published.
Last edited by leyla; 12-Apr-2012 at 19:58. Reason: I keep inserting more and more blank lines between paragraphs but the review keeps reverting back to one solid block of prose. This happens with all my reviews here.
A lovely review, Leyla, as always.
The formatting might be getting lost b/c you're transferring it directly from a different website: the forum sometimes doesn't recognize the format of whatever it is you are trying to copy-and-paste and so automatically reformats it as one joint block of text.
Thank you for your kind words, Liam.I think you're spot on about the formatting problem, because it only happens when I copy and paste from elsewhere. In the end, what I did was copy and paste it here, after I had re-inserted all the paragraph breaks, before pressing 'submit'. Then, when the formatting was inevitably lost again, I just pasted the version I'd copied from here and pressed submit, and it seemed to keep the para breaks. I guess it's a sign of this site's exclusivity - just like the best stores, it won't accept dross from any old place, only stuff written directly for it :-)
Enjoyed reading your article Leyla.
"In fact nothing is said that that has not been said before." -Terence
Thank you Hamlet. :-)
I had removed the review as I needed to re-write it in a much shorter review for the Indy. Here's a link to much shorter version in Indy, plus a long version:
Every Contact Leaves A Trace - Elanor Dymott
Jonathan Cape £12.99
Reviewed by Leyla Sanai
Early on in Elanor Dymott's stunning debut, Alex, a grieving young*widower whose beautiful, gregarious wife Rachel has been brutally*murdered in the grounds of their old Oxford College, Worcester,*remembers Rachel telling him about her interview for her undergraduate*place studying English. 'It was just a conversation about stories and*how to tell them', she said.
The telling of stories is key to this compelling locked-room thriller, the title of which refers to the French forensic scientist*Locard's principle about the traces of evidence exchanged at moments of*contact. Alex's unwinding of the events that led to Rachel's murder*relies on other people's accounts. And it quickly becomes apparent that*however intelligent and well-meaning a person is, their version of a*story will almost always be skewed in their favour: Alex surmises that*a key character 'is not unusual in having had to rewrite... history in*order to be able to live with' themselves.
Alex was a loner before his marriage. An only child, his family life*came to a catastrophic end after an incident in childhood that split*his parents, despatched his best friend, and saw Alex sent off to*boarding school. When he gains a place at Worcester College to study*law, he still feels an outsider. But for one brief summer, he becomes*close to a girl who has bewitched him since first year, Rachel, a girl*admired and sniped about in equal measure. Men call her a tease, but is*this only because she's rejected them?
When Alex meets Rachel again at Richard's wedding, the two fall in love*and marry. It is on a trip back to their alma mater that Rachel is*killed, a seemingly motiveless crime. *Months later, Alex begins to*learn information that illuminates the mystery of her death, but in so*doing, it reveals that Rachel was not the person he imagined her to be*but an altogether darker character.
Dymott's debut is influenced by Donna Tartt's sublime The Secret*History in its depiction of a death amidst the setting of a prestigious*academic institution and a tightly-knit cabal of friends. There is also*something of Ishiguro in the precision and lucidity of Dymott's prose,*the calm, methodical first person narrator and the reader's sense of*unease about the reliability of characters' accounts; their potential*for self delusion. The segues from the main narrative strand into*sidetracks which themselves are described meticulously before shifting*back to the original topic are also reminiscent of Ishiguro.
But there is no sense that the story is anyone's but Dymott's: the*prose exudes her own style and talent. Psychological details reveal the*characters' true personalities - a noisy exit halfway through a matinee*followed by almost exhibitionist calling of scores on an adjoining*tennis court; falling asleep through a spouse's account of his most*traumatic memory; manipulative behaviour ranging from coquettish to*vulnerable to win hearts and favours; lack of respect shown to a*college porter; inconsideration and spite in the face of kindness. And*although the reader's heart aches for Alex, who has glimpsed happiness *for the first time since childhood only to have it snatched cruelly**from his grasp, he too is revealed to be flawed, arriving too late for*his best friend's wedding ceremony, dozing during the drinks. In many*ways the characters' imperfections make us care more about them because*they render the people more real; they have all known emotional pain*and caused it to others.
Dymott's capacity to conjure up striking imagery is exceptional:*'darkness is spreading out against the sky as though something has been*spilt there'; the police forensic search team 'in white boiler suits*was strung out across the lawns and moved as one, each...waving a torch*back and forth across the grass...so that they looked like some sort of*alien landing craft'. She is also a master at building up suspense to*an almost unbearable zenith before lightly side-stepping onto a related*subject, leaving the reader rigid with tension.
Cavils are minor. Why didn't the police investigate one of the*signatures in the porter's log (albeit it was a false name)? How did a figure disappear with no*witnesses and not get caught on street CCTV before or after the crime?*But these holes occur in real life murder cases, so they are not*implausible.
This novel is so much more than a murder mystery. It is an examination*of the subjectivity of accounts of the truth, with their subconscious*laundering of facts to leave the narrator pristine. It is a desperately*moving love story about a lonely man who finally finds salvation in*another only to have the idyll destroyed and his memories thrown into*question. Finally, it is a tale of revenge, served cold and deadly.