Sceptre, £12.99, 343pp. £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Cold light, By Jenn Ashworth
Friday 10 June 2011
Like the oxymoronic title of Jenn Ashworth's haunting second novel, its insidious and unsettling power resides in the tension created by opposites. The tenderness and delicacy of the 14-year-old girl is juxtaposed with a capacity for great brutality. Set in a northern town as claustrophobic as the relationships depicted, Cold Light unflinchingly tells the sad story of teenage friendship gone awry in the most devastating way.
Ashworth continues her exploration of how far we can really know a person, a theme compellingly grappled with in her darkly comic debut, A Kind of Intimacy. There, the obsessed protagonist Annie convinces herself that her neighbour is in love with her. The characters of Cold Light also live largely within their own heads, with swarming neuroses which makes the reading experience akin to being surrounded by fun-house mirrors. The protagonists – and reader – frantically try to assess the correct contours of the characters closest to them.
Following the death of a teenager, a reconstruction process is under way to work out exactly what happened. The search for the truth peels back layers until we ask: is there any real person inside? Perception is at the heart of the narrative. Chloe is hiding from a security camera when we meet her, and imagery of photography and film is abundant, as characters are refracted through a myriad of viewpoints. These characters are comprised of the stories told about them: composites of rumour, gossip, mishearing.
Ashworth's real subject is how we are unwittingly hurt by those in whom we have placed trust. Cold Light is filled with bruises, bleeding and psychological bludgeoning. A novel also about the power and pitfalls of narrative, it is told by the hand of a true storyteller.
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
- 2 Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
- 3 WrestleMania 31 results: Seth Rollins stuns WWE as he cashes in Money in the Bank contract to claim title from Brock Lesnar
- 4 Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
- 5 Germanwings plane crash: I have depression. That doesn't make me a psychopath
Cassetteboy joins forces with Russell Brand for Emperor's New Clothes film
Poldark, review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity, TV review: The affable Englishman routine is wearing a bit thin
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew