by Harriet Lane

5 stars

Wow. Just… Wow. It’s rare – very rare indeed – that a book that comes with as many superlatives as this, lives up to the hype, but Alys Always absolutely does and more. The writing is superb: the style flinty and sparse, yet richly descriptive.

The story tells of the Machiavellian scheming of Frances Thorpe, an underachieving, under-noticed sub editor on the literary pages of a floundering broadsheet – a description which does no justice at all to this remarkable novel: a first-person story told in a voice that is entirely believable and recognisable: hesitant but sure, scheming and underhand, but always with a hint of guilt, a tint of fear, that she might, after all, be found out; that she just might not get away with it. The uncertainty adds terrific piquancy to the tale and keeps those pages turning. I’ve rarely read anything quite so compulsive. I read it in two afternoons. I missed two lunches and countless coffees for it. I could hardly bear to put it down at all.