My first and up to now only experience of Nina Bawden’s writing was many many years ago, when as a child I read Carrie’s War – one of my all-time favourite children’s stories.
I actually have two other Nina Bawden novels on my TBR – and now having read this one I eagerly anticipate them.
Emma and her husband Henry live with their young twin sons in Henry’s father’s large house. Their best friends Holly and Felix live opposite. When her father in law falls to his death, Emma is convinced she is responsible. Was she? Did the old man fall or was he pushed? Emma lives inside her own head – her dreamlike fantasies, both romantic and guilt ridden become gradually more obsessive. Each character sees Emma differently. Henry sees Emma as a fragile little flower; Holly has a more complex viewpoint – believing her to be at once conventional and manipulative, while her husband Felix sees her as a saint. The narrative is told by Emma, Holly and Henry by turn, as they gradually try to unravel the truth behind the tragic incident.
There is a surprisingly claustrophobic atmosphere to this quite dark little novel. ‘The Grain of Truth’ opens and closes with Emma’s plea to be heard, her mother had not listened to her years before – and this has left an indelible mark. None of the characters are really that likeable – although I felt more sympathy for Emma in her suffocating life, with her rather priggish husband, up tight mother and bed hopping best friend.
I found this to be an enjoyable read from an author who wrote quite a number of books for adults, which I can now look forward to reading.