Secretary takes a sickie
FICTION: STALKING FIONA by Nigel Williams, Granta pounds 15.99
Sunday 09 March 1997
The idea of a crime seen - and solved - through four perspectives is intriguing, but it doesn't take very long for the plot to founder on the rocks of implausibility. Why doesn't Fiona go to the police? Oh, because the attacker has threatened to kill her if she does. Given that she has already had sex with Paul, how come she still can't tell - smell, size, sixth-sense - whether or not he's also the rapist? Can we believe that a rape victim would hand over her intimate diaries to a suspect? The problems multiply rather than resolve as the narrative progresses. Just how likely is it that a woman, raped in the night, will cheerfully turn up for work the next morning and go out for a lunchtime pizza with a man who might well be the rapist?
As she sifts the evidence, the three men turn up to plead, protest and blame each other. Fiona, still reading, decides she is safe as long as she keeps at least two of them in sight. The texts fragment and expand as the men creep up behind her and read over her shoulder, making interjections. Williams's deftness with the three-card trick is dizzying as he constantly shuffles the permutations.
Fiona herself is a compulsive writer as well as reader. The rapist describes his vigil in her bedroom: "She sat up in bed ... I thought at first that she was doing her nails. But such was the silence in the room that, after a minute or two, I could make out ... the scritch-scratch of a pen across paper. Oh Fiona! She's writing her fucking diary!" As a tricksy, postmodern subversion of novelistic conventions, this is old stuff; Fielding was here first in Shamela, his 1741 satire on Richardson's much-assaulted, scribbling heroine.
This is no whodunnit: Williams doesn't play by those rules. He taunts the reader with the untrustworthiness of the written word ("this is a story about how things look, about how a tone of voice or a trick of style can betray you and ... how words on a page can lie as easily and cruelly as the false lover in whose arms you may have fallen peacefully asleep"). But the solution isn't guessable, no matter how close the reading. At the end of the book, one of the three ciphers dutifully unmasks himself. "Now I knew it was him, of course, I couldn't understand why I hadn't recognised the fact long ago" - well, because there wouldn't have been a story then, Fiona.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
V&A removes depiction of Prophet Mohamed from website amid 'severe security alert'
Game of Thrones season 5: IMAX releases new trailer with first look footage of Tyrion Lannister
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks