Book Review: Her

Her, by Harriet Lane

Harriet Lane’s first novel Alys, Always was widely praised for combining sharply observed everyday life with something a lot more sinister. Her second now pulls off the same trick with equal aplomb.

The joint narrators, taking alternate chapters, are two women at different stages of parenthood. Emma, who used to work in TV, is hunkered down with two kids under five, and trying hard not to resent the narrowness of her life. Nina is married to a wealthy architect, doing well as an artist but with a 17-year-old daughter who’s drifting away from her. When the two meet by chance, Emma soon finds Nina remarkably helpful.

But what Emma doesn’t realise is they met as teenagers—when she spent a holiday in Nina’s Kent village and her glamour and self-assurance had an impact that she didn’t even notice, but that Nina has neither forgotten nor forgiven. And so, in a neat twist on the usual novels of revenge, it’s the more outwardly successful character who wants to get even, and poor Emma who has no idea how dangerous her new friendship is. The result is a novel that becomes increasingly—and at times excruciatingly—tense as it approaches its devastating final chapter.

(Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £12.99; ebook, £6.99)