Black Heart Blue, By Louisa Reid

Deflecting blows: enduring life with a sadistic "Father"

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The Independent Culture

Rebecca and Hephzibah are twins who have been treated abominably by their fundamentalist Christian family. When they start at college they get a taste of freedom, but find that "The Parents" are unwilling to let them lead the lives they would wish.

Louisa Reid's grim novel is hampered by some simplistic characterisation: "The Father", with his bad jokes and penchant for exorcisms, is like the villain in a cheap horror movie. But his beatings can seem chillingly real: "He knew I wouldn't scream ... the whole thing was silent, almost balletic, the dance so familiar now that I knew how best to move a shoulder to deflect a blow..."