Alice Sebold - The Almost Moon (2 stars)

(Picador)

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Alice Sebold - The Almost Moon

‘When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.’ With that opening sentence, Alice Sebold tells you all you need to know about her long-anticipated follow-up to The Lovely Bones. The subject matter – matricide and mental illness – is just as bleak, the suburban setting as unremittingly ordinary. And maybe that’s the problem. Sebold is a skilled writer who creates a chest-tightening sense of claustrophobia in the early passages, when her narrator, Helen Knightly, finds herself clutching her senile mother’s murdered body on the kitchen floor, a lifetime of memories pulsing out of the too-familiar ornaments.

It’s an excellent premise for a short story, or even a gothic novella. But Helen is humourless, spineless, steeped in victim culture and determined to find anyone else to blame for her actions; too damp a squib to spark the flicker of hope Sebold sorely needs to sustain this novel. (Kirstin Innes)

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