Jenny Turner (3 stars)

Brainstorm (Jonathan Cape)


Set in the booming London of the 1990s, Jenny Turner’s debut novel is already a period piece. Her astringent comedy of manners captures ‘media chicks’ and their men, swearing and scheming, cocooned in Canary Wharf, unaware of the cracks literally opening beneath their feet. Her prose ranges from colloquial to poetic, occasionally uneven, always easy reading.

But here comes the philosophy. Turner’s protagonist, Lorna, has had a brainstorm; she cannot remember what she does, where she comes from or where she is going. She spends the novel picking up the pieces of her fractured identity and reading, perhaps re-reading, Hegel. It’s all a dialectic, ‘innit’? The dirty high-rise council flat where Lorna chooses to live, contrasts with the moral grubbiness of the skyscraper crowd. Turner can be a bit heavy-handed with Hegel, at least to begin with, but this is a stylish novel that finishes with a soft flourish.

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