INCLUDED ON A LIST OF THBEST DEBUT FICTION 2010
A self-absorbed young woman cannot outrun her troubled past when she tries for a new start in a British suburb.
Her head filled with self help–book affirmations, newly-single (and morbidly obese) Annie Fairhurst believes, at age 27, that her life has finally begun. Bringing little more than her cat, Mr. Tips, she moves to a modest home on a quiet street and almost immediately fixates on her neighbor, Neil, a decent bloke who lives and works next door. Mistaking Neil’s small kindnesses for romantic interest, Annie imagines a future for the two of them, in spite of the fact that he is happily cohabitating with his skinny, nubile girlfriend Lucy. Charting her “self development and personal progress,” in an increasingly warped file, Annie throws a cringe-worthy housewarming party, gets a new hairdo and begins tormenting Lucy in assorted bizarre ways. These range from going through her trash, to pulling out her primroses, to buying the same dress as her rival. Annie naturally denies any wrongdoing, making Lucy look merely high-strung. Annie manages somehow to inspire more pity than fear in Neil and other well-meaning locals, but disturbing details from her previous life emerge. She married young after an unhappy childhood, to a dentist named Will who may or may not have abused her. There was an infant girl as well, Grace, who, like her father, is no longer among the living. Throw in a bunch of kinky encounters with men she met through Abundance magazine and you have a queasy recipe for disaster. So does her history make Annie a victim, a villain or something in between? She is certainly bonkers, with her delusions leading to an inevitable but shocking conclusion.
An impressive debut that will remind some of the work of Patricia Highsmith. A nasty, but tough-to-put-down portrait of a sociopath.