Her by Harriet Lane published in 2015.
“Two different women; two different worlds. On the face of it, Emma and Nina have very little in common. Isolated and exhausted by early motherhood, Emma finds her confidence is fading fast. Nina is sophisticated and assured, a successful artist who seems to have it all under control. And yet, when the two women meet, they are irresistibly drawn to each other. As the friendship develops, as Emma gratefully invites Nina into her life, it emerges that someone is playing games – and the stakes could not be higher.”
I began reading this book with little to no expectations, as I knew little to nothing about the novel or the author. Unfortunately, I finished it with the same level of enthusiasm that I started with.
Following the lives of two seemingly different women, Nina and Emma, the unlikely and blatantly underwhelming connection between the two are very slowly revealed. Nina is a worldly painter that holds a slightly uncomfortable obsession with Emma. Meanwhile, Emma is an incredibly oblivious mother, who seems to have a strange love-hate relationship with her young children, holding a grudge against them for stealing away her glamorous television career. She is now trapped in motherhood, only able to longingly observe her past life through her husband. Nina goes to great lengths to insert herself into Emma’s life; from stealing her wallet and pretending to find it so she can be the one to return the lost item. She even lured Emma’s young son away from a playground so she could be the “hero” that finds him. I found both characters unrelatable in different ways, so ultimately I didn’t care about what happened to them. I understand that the author was going for an open ending, one that the reader can interpret the way they please. Yet it’s difficult to put much thought into an ending of a story you don’t really care.
There were other characters too, yet the reason I failed to mention them is because they were all quite flat. Simply implanted in the story to serve a singular purpose. I did appreciate Emma’s odd relationship with her children, bouncing back and forth from unconditional love and comfort to burning resentment towards their loud cries and sticky hands. I feel that most motherly tropes in literature are portrayed in a quintessential light; constantly sacrificing and providing maternal warm and love, always knowing the answers to supposedly impossible questions. Yet Emma’s character is a bit more realistic, giving into the frustration and even sometimes loathing towards her family. When it comes to Nina, she is on the verge of sociopathic tendencies as she tries to get close to Emma (refer above to the child abduction act she pulled). She also possessed peculiar emotions towards Emma, constantly admiring her beauty yet finding joy in her stress and failure. I had absolutely no empathy for either of these women, which is a pity.
Let’s move on to the plot line of this story. I won’t be spoiling anything because to be honest, there’s not much to spoil. Throughout the entire novel, there is an intense build up that has the reader asking themselves: “How does Nina know Emma, but Emma is unaware Nina?” I found myself wondering, perhaps they were lovers in their youth? Did Nina once be a crazed fan of Emma during her TV career? No, nothing quite as exciting. Not only is the reveal very lacklustre, but the author waits until the final ten pages or so to disclose this information. There is also no moment of recognition from Emma. Throughout the story, she experiences small recollections of Nina from her past, yet cannot exactly connect the dots. So I was waiting for the final piece of the puzzle to click for her—the “my God, that’s where I know you from” moment, and then further confrontation as to why Nina did not reveal her identity right away. This never happens.
Now the imagery. Ah, all the imagery. I’m pretty sure at least fifty percent or more of the word count in this book were adjectives alone. Describing the sight, smell, sound, taste and tangible feeling of everything these characters experience; both past and present. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate some good imagery here and there, but I found myself drowning in all the pointless descriptions that littered the page. It wasn’t uncommon that I had to go back and re-read the same paragraph three or four times, which grows very tiring quite quickly. Contributing to the droning on of the excessive imagery, the flow was troubling for me. There was hardly no variety in sentence lengths; the majority of them being very long run on sentences, separated by commas and semicolons.
I closed this book with the worst feeling a reader can feel; apathy. Indifference towards the plot, characters and overall themes of the novel. If you plan on reading Her by Harriet Lane in the future, I’m not here to stop you, but just simply warn you. Be prepared for endless and tiresome imagery, characters with little redeeming qualities, and an ending that leaves little to be desired.