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Susan finds her year-old marriage to Alistair less than ideal. Just as she contemplates leaving him, she discovers that she is pregnant with his child. As she grapples with this news, she learns that her loathed father has killed himself. Left confused and bereft by these developments and haunted by visions of a little boy, she meets a seductive young painter and, despite knowing it could lead to crisis, begins an affair with him in her eighth month of pregnancy.
Told with an eye for startling details and an unerring sense for psychological truth, this harrowing, passionate, obsessively compelling literary debut captures the reality of a young woman's inner landscape while spinning a tale that will hypnotise readers to its last satisfying pages.
The trouble with this disconcerting first novel is not so much the premise-that a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy is seduced by a man to whom she proves irresistible-but that all the characters are unappealing, and some are downright revolting. The narrator, Susan, is a would-be artist who married her successful management-consultant husband Alastair despite the fact that she did not love him. She elicits little sympathy from the reader, despite the unhappy circumstances of her life, which she recalls in flashback. Her father, Douglas, who has just committed suicide as the novel opens, was viciously mean and sadistically spiteful, the kind of man whose idea of a good time is to take his three young daughters to see the bodies of the rats he has shot. It's no wonder that he turned out so badly, having been brutally mistreated by his mother, the loathsome Queenie, whose hateful conduct is the stuff of melodrama but not of psychologically grounded behavior. Traumatized by both her progenitors, Susan feels she has been sleepwalking through life. Then, when she begins seeing her father's ghost, she realizes that he actually walked in his sleep as a boy. When Lenny, a talented but indigent artist, tells the very pregnant Susan that he adores her, she hopes the affair will bring an end to her ``deep, heart-gripping desolation.'' But the self-pitying tone of this novel, the lack of credible characterization and the assumption that the reader will feel empathy with the suddenly liberated Susan when she decides she must leave her decent, likable husband, make it thoroughly distasteful. Author tour.