A Kind Of Intimacy
The central figure, and narrator, of A Kind Of Intimacy is Annie Fairhurst. She has recently moved to a new estate but a mysterious past gradually unfolds. Her erratic behaviour is conveyed through a narrative style that often seems balanced and measured. She is the ultimate neighbour from hell. God help you if you live in the suburbs and she moves in next door. She roots through your trash, steals from your clothesline, accuses you of killing her cat, and much more.
In fairness, it seems that her husband was abusive, her father didn’t care, and that her mother died at an early age. Of course, the reader must rely on Annie for all this information. She is passive-aggressive and becomes obsessed with keeping a File, cross-referenced, of all the people she gets to know on her new street. One of these is the innocent Neil. On first meeting him, Annie believes they have met before and concludes that he is infatuated with her. The only thing in the way of a relationship is Neil’s girlfriend Lucy. And so Annie plots and schemes her way to Neil’s heart.
She constantly reads self-help literature. “Most of my favourite books have been written by professionals: the top experts in their fields. Even when I was living through my blackest hours and doubted the efficacy of a new lipstick or a bottle of nail polish, I deferred to the judgement of university experts and made the purchase, trusting in the advice of someone who knew enough about the topic to make a living writing books about it.” Whether or not the reader trusts Annie becomes the central concern of the book. She is clearly delusional but there is no way to read the events of the novel without looking through Annie-shaped glasses. This forces the reader to experience the book as slightly uncomfortable, a sensation that increases as the plot reaches its climax.
Annie Fairhurst bears a resemblance to Stephen King’s Annie Wilkes (from Misery) and Ashworth is playing with the field of horror genre here, although the reader doesn’t realise this for quite some time. Until then, it seems to be an indictment of suburban living. God help you if Annie moves in next door!
As a first novel it is quite a success. It is a plot driven book and highly enjoyable. There are few overall concerns with the book, though I will say that I look forward to Ashworth’s subsequent work. It takes time to register authorial control and there are times when Annie’s self-delusions alienate the reader, although that is very often the point.
Jenn Ashworth is a full-time writer and freelance literature development worker. She is currently working on her second novel and her first, A Kind of Intimacy, has just become available as a paperback. She also teaches creative writing and blogging workshops, organises literature events and projects and edits manuscripts. Her blog can be read at http://jennashworth.blogspot.com/
Jenn Ashworth – A Kind of Intimacy
Published by Arcadia Books
ISBN 9 781906 413392
Paperback 282 pages