Saturday 12 March 2011

Cold Light ~ Jenn Ashworth

I'm sitting on my couch, watching the local news. There's Chloe's parents, the mayor, the hangers on, all grouped round the pond for the ceremony. It's ten years since Chloe and Carl drowned, and they've finally chosen a memorial - a stupid summerhouse. The mayor has a spade decked out in pink and white ribbon, and he's started to dig.
You can tell from their faces that something has gone wrong. But I'm the one who knows straightaway that the mayor has found a body. And I know who it is.
This is the tale of three fourteen-year-old girls and a volatile combination of lies, jealousy and perversion that ends in tragedy. Except the tragedy is even darker and more tangled than their tight-knit community has been persuaded to believe.
Blackly funny and with a surreal edge to its portrait of a northern English town, Jenn Ashworth's gripping novel captures the intensity of girls' friendships and the dangers they face in a predatory adult world they think they can handle. And it shows just how far that world is willing to let sentiment get in the way of the truth.

I read Jenn Ashworth' first novel 'A Kind of Intimacy' early in 2010 and thought it was fantastic, it was in my Top Ten books of 2010.   Jenn is a great writer and has a fabulous blog here, which is always entertaining and well worth a follow.  On the strength of 'A Kind of Intimacy', Jenn was voted one of the 12 best new novelists on the BBC's Culture Show - there is an article about the show here.   My thoughts on 'A Kind of Intimacy' can be found here.

I was delighted to receive a proof pre-publication copy of Jenn's new novel 'Cold Light' - many thanks to Jenn and to Nikki at Hodder for sending the copy.
I've had my head stuck in this book for the past couple of days, and have not been disappointed at all, another dark and tense read.  Here's my thoughts.

The story of 'Cold Light' revolves around three teenage girls; Chloe, Lola and Emma who live in a small town in Northern England and is narrated by Lola, or Laura as she prefers to be known nowadays. The prologue is set in the present day and it is made clear to the reader that Laura is not the happiest of people and that Chloe has been dead for the last ten years.   It is the anniversary of her death and a memorial to her memory is being held in the town.  Jenn Ashworth is an expert in creating unreliable narrators and Laura appears both innocent and naive whilst having a hint of unkindness and malevolence at the same time.
Laura relates the story of her friendship with Chloe and the events leading up to her death, this is cleverly done with flash backs which tie in nicely to the events unfolding during the present day
Chloe has to be one of the most objectionable fictional characters I've ever come across, not since Barbara in Zoe Heller's 'Notes on a Scandal' have I disliked a character so much, yet this adds so much to this story, it's compelling and fast paced and really cleverly written. Chloe spends much of her time being over-dramatic, causing choas and playing her two friends off against one another.  She is controlling and manipulative yet has a certain something that makes Lola and Emma keep coming back for more.  Her relationship with the much-older Carl is quite dark and disturbing at times, there is a definate air of menace in the story which can make the reader feel a little uncomfortable at times.
An excellent story line, well drawn characters and a realistic setting - this novel ticks all of my must-haves.  Fantastic stuff! 

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