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Thread: Elanor Dymott: Every Contact Leaves a Trace

  1. #1
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    United Kingdom Elanor Dymott: Every Contact Leaves a Trace

    Will repost my thoughts after review published.
    Last edited by leyla; 12-Apr-2012 at 18:58. 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.

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    Default Re: Elanor Dymott: Every Contact Leaves a Trace

    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.

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    Default Re: Elanor Dymott: Every Contact Leaves a Trace

    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 :-)

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    Default Re: Elanor Dymott: Every Contact Leaves a Trace

    Enjoyed reading your article Leyla.
    "In fact nothing is said that that has not been said before."

    -Terence



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    Default Re: Elanor Dymott: Every Contact Leaves a Trace

    Thank you Hamlet. :-)

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    Default Re: Elanor Dymott: Every Contact Leaves a Trace

    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:


    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-en...t-7682242.html

    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.






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