Alice Sebold - The Almost Moon (2 stars)

Alice Sebold - The Almost Moon

(Picador)

‘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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