Samantha Harvey - Dear Thief (3 stars)

Samantha Harvey - Dear Thief

Exquisite writing and a poignant story fail to be truly exciting in the long run

(Jonathan Cape)

The art of letter writing is almost lost, but it's a tool used by Dear Thief's narrator as some form of catharsis. ‘In answer to a question you asked a long time ago,’ she begins, moving off on a journey through friendship, love and betrayal.

The letter, written over months, is to Nina, nicknamed Butterfly, a sporadic friend over the years who had an affair with the narrator's husband before disappearing for good. She doesn't know if Nina's alive or dead as she writes.

The novel builds the atmosphere around the whole progression of the affair, before and after, and scrutinises a tarnished friendship. It's tinged with nostalgia – remembering the good times, unable to forget the bad, even hypothesising the narrator’s own theories on the events, or detailing irrelevant daily titbits.

While it's a letter that traverses the whole spectrum of emotions from rage to love, and it can tug at the heartstrings, it lacks a strong plot. There is definitely a power to the exquisite writing and the poignant story, but Dear Thief fails to be truly exciting in the long run.

Published by Jonathan Cape on Thu 25 Sep.

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