All Nell's life, Olive Owen has lived next door but one. And all her life, Nell has hated her. Even at school Olive had sparkled indecently, turning heads. Nell has a son, her pleasure and her shame, though now she lives alone. Nell is sharp in all the places Olive is round.
When Wolfe moves into the house in between them, their quiet street is transformed. A lonely, spirited eight-year-old boy, he knocks on their doors at Halloween and invites them to his bonfire party. As the fireworks flare, he finds himself in the middle of an ancient conflict, grudges bared and burning with a fury he could never have imagined.
'A perfect, black little tale' Observer
There are no tricks and many treats in this gem of a novel, which centers on three households in a small English neighborhood in the interval between Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day . Octogenarian Olive, a once beautiful radical who has become obese and addled in her old age, shares a home with her longtime companion and devoted caretaker. Their neighbors are Nell, an old woman waging a war on dirt to expunge the shame of her ex-con son's crime, and a family overflowing with children, whose youngest member links them all. As the novel progresses, secrets about the past and the history of a bitter rivalry between Olive and Nell surface, shedding light on the present and ultimately shaping it in painful, searing ways. Glaister, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award last year for her first novel, Honour Thy Father , writes with sensitivity and humor. Olive, who is losing her grip on the world, and Nell, who fiercely struggles to control her environment, are memorable characters. That readers will empathize with Olive's anguish over the loss of a straw hat is a credit to the novelist's gift for opening up their inner lives and imbuing even the smallest objects with emotional weight. Deftly building suspense, Glaister moves the narrative to an explosive, sadly ironic and very satisfying denouement.