Recently I’ve Read … Her by Harriet Lane

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Billed ‘the ultimate frenemy thriller’, Her is one of seemingly dozens of domestic noir novels currently flooding the market and being compared to Gone Girl.

And how does it compare to these other titles? Well, for me at least, unfavourably. Her has so much promise that it completely wastes.

The premise is certainly a good one: the theme of female friendships is fascinating and is the central focus here. Emma feels weighed down by her two small children. She is befriended by Nina, chic and apparently together. Nina seemingly inhabits a different world entirely but understands Emma’s.

Unbeknown to Emma, however, Nina knows her of old and holds something of a grudge.

There is some good stuff here: I always felt that I was reading about real people, not Characters; that I had stepped into their lives, not into Scenes. Lane’s writing is sharp and she provides some unflinching insights into motherhood and domesticity.

But there is little depth here; so much is left unexplored. One of the biggest problems with the novel is that, throughout, many scenes are depicted twice: once from Emma’s perspective and once from Nina’s. A fairly standard but potentially intriguing thriller trope. Except here, the women’s accounts are word-for-word (or as good as) the same every single time. This puzzled me as, surely, slight discrepancies between the two accounts would have added a good dose of tension and moral ambiguity: who is the big old liar here? The similarity between Emma and Nina’s responses is, perhaps, significant: I thought that, maybe, it showed the potential for a genuine friendship between the two, were it not for Nina’s vendetta. But, since Lane never really explores this possibility, this technique becomes purely repetitive and smacks of a missed opportunity.

A killer ending would have rendered this niggle null and void. This ending, though, is pretty dreadful. It ruined the whole thing and made me feel I had completely wasted my time. The reason for Nina’s grudge is so incomprehensibly banal, it barely registers as a reveal at all. And cop-out doesn’t even cover the climax.

There is interesting material here for fans of the domestic noir genre, but for the most part Her is a novel full of missed opportunities, with a dreadfully weak ending.

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