Paperback review: Signs of Life, By Anna Raverat


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The Independent Culture

Rachel was in a long-term relationship in her early twenties, but had an affair with a friend that ended badly. 10 years later, she takes up the pen in order to make sense of her behaviour and its tragic consequences for those she loved.

Anna Raverat's assured debut novel is told in fragments, as Rachel grapples with difficult – and perhaps unreliable – memories ("Here's the story: there are holes in it"). The reader must reassemble these chronologically jumbled scenes in order to make sense of Rachel's account – and to assess her guilt.

The book works as both a suspenseful psychological thriller and a sophisticated meditation on the act of writing; at its centre is the idea that the impulse to write stems from a desire to gain purchase on life's slippery surfaces.