“With his chillingly elegant prose and frighteningly deadpan narrative, Tim Parks has written, not a whodunnit, but a brilliant whydunnit”
This was the last, I think, of the seven or eight books I wrote before being published. I remember telling myself I would give up if this one didn’t make it. Doubt if I would though. Writing had become a habit. Anyhow, that creeping desperation certainly conditioned the novel in all kinds of ways. Most of all there was the first page. I sat down one evening and wrote, ‘Roger lay on the carpet’… and it was immediately evident that he was dead and that his girlfriend had killed him. That should wake them up, I thought. I wrote the first ten pages in just a few hours, then put the thing away for more than a year. The problem was I had chosen to write in the girlfriend’s voice. It seemed important not to tell the story in the man’s voice, it would too easily have become mine, especially since Roger was to be a failed writer. But having got the first pages down I wasn’t sure I could carry it off for a whole novel.
What made it possible, and full of fun was the decision to set the book in the ridiculous office I’d worked in for a year or so after university. A really crazy place. As soon as I realised that Roger and Anna had been executive and secretary in my old company, it all made sense. I pricked up my ears for old cadences and went for it, not realising that I’d hit upon what would be the major subject of the later books: the way an embattled relationship, a relationship between people who love but cannot understand, can, ironically, confer an enormous sense of purpose and even destiny, if only because one is constantly seeking to overcome the obstacle of the other person’s resistance. These are the hardest relationships to let go. In the end, Anna has to resort to the kitchen knife.
This novel is a mordantly illuminating essay on the way love contains the seeds of vindictiveness and hatred
A tautly constructed love story full of passion and tenderness