Monday, August 20, 2012

"Alys, Always," by Harriet Lane

It is hard to categorize the brief, gripping British novel, “Alys, Always” (Scribner, 2012), by Harriet Lane. It is a literary novel, but also has elements of suspense and psychological gameswomanship. Reviewers and blurbers have mentioned the author Ruth Rendell and the classic novel “Rebecca” as influences or antecedents. The main character, Frances Thorpe, stops at the scene of an accident and is the last to speak to the dying woman driver, Alys Kyte, who turns out to be the wife of a prominent writer, Laurence Kyte. (A side note: what is it with characters meeting at the beginning of novels at the scenes of accidents? This is at least the third novel I have read recently with this plot device.) What follows is her increasing connection with Alys’ family, as she learns more about them and becomes associated more with them. The psychological aspect of the novel comes into play here, as we readers slowly realize there is more going on under the surface than initially appears, and that Frances is a much more complicated and less innocent character than we might have thought at first. This is a well-written, compelling but somewhat disturbing novel. I can’t decide whether I liked it or not, but it definitely kept me reading.

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