Nina de la Mer - Layla (3 stars)

An authentic work of modern feminism that explores London’s lap dancing culture

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Nina de la Mer - Layla

(Myriad Editions)

As a teenage mother parted from her infant son, Hayleigh has moved to London and become Layla, a lap dancer whose world is quickly consuming her. With her second novel Brighton-based Scottish author Nina de la Mer has delivered an authentic work of modern feminism that explores London’s lap dancing culture and the characters who inhabit it, from domineering males to backstabbing rivals and sleazy customers. The plot unfolds in an intense second person narrative that is close while keeping the reader at arm's length, making Layla’s vulnerability stand out more than her naivety as her experimentation with drink, drugs and sexuality becomes more amplified, though some chapters could have been cut back in places. Sex scenes are implicit rather than explicit, preserving a degree of privacy in such an exploitative world. There’s a nod to celebrity culture where Hayleigh fantasises about Big Brother scooping her up and dropping her on the red carpet, which makes the reality all the more desperate as she tries to win her son back. She is a character who penetrates deep and leaves a lasting impression, as does de la Mer.

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