Her by Harriet Lane

Revenge is a dish best served cold…

😐 😐 😐

herWhen Nina sees Emma across a London street, it stirs old memories – and they’re not good ones. Engineering an ‘accidental’ meeting, she’s happy to find that Emma doesn’t recognise her. Emma, mother of a toddler and pregnant again, is struggling with a life of domesticity and is badly in need of a friend and confidante, giving Nina the ideal opportunity to insinuate herself into Emma’s life. But the reader knows from an early stage that Nina isn’t the kind, supportive person she seems to Emma. For reasons we don’t discover till late on in the book, she’s out to have some kind of revenge on Emma – small things at first, but gradually becoming more sinister…

The book is told from the two women’s perspectives in alternating chapters. Unfortunately both voices are in the dreaded first-person present tense. I also found that both voices are too similar – while their stories and perspectives are different, their speech patterns and vocabulary are pretty much identical. So apparently are their experiences of child-rearing. I do get rather tired of all the fictional middle-class and fairly wealthy mothers who seem to find child-rearing so difficult and burdensome. Emma is struggling to cope with one child and it’s pretty obvious things aren’t going to improve when she has to deal with a new-born too. Nina has the typical troublesome teenager, who stays out late and is occasionally rude to her mother. I must say the misery of the two mothers over rather minor things seemed pretty overdone.

Harriet Lane
Harriet Lane

The story itself is reasonably interesting, though the device of covering the same ground twice from the two different perspectives becomes really tedious quite quickly. It’s been done before and done better – by Gillian White in Copycat, for instance. Again, there isn’t enough difference in the two voices to make the re-telling fresh, and we very soon come to know, I felt, how innocent Emma’s account would be seen in the next chapter through the eyes of wicked Nina. But from about halfway through the story begins to speed up a bit and the duplication in narrative is reduced. When the action moves to the south of France, Lane gives us some good descriptive writing that creates an authentic sense of place. And although I found the ‘children are so hard’ angst overdone, she does give a realistic picture of the joys or otherwise of travelling and holidaying with young children in tow.

As the book approaches the conclusion, Lane ratchets up the tension nicely and there’s no doubt the ending is suitably thrillerish. No spoilers, but from other reviews the ending seems to be dividing people into love or hate camps – I thought it was well written…but hated it. I didn’t feel it worked with the psychology of the characters and I didn’t think it matched the overall tone of the book. I think it may be my disappointment with the ending that’s colouring my overall view of the book, because for the most part, despite the flaws I’ve mentioned, I found this a flowing, reasonably enjoyable read, and quite well written. But in the end I felt it was nothing more than a lightweight entertainment, with not enough depth to compensate for some of the weaknesses or to justify the unexpectedly heavyweight ending.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Orion Publishing Group.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

48 thoughts on “Her by Harriet Lane

  1. FictionFan – Sorry to hear this one didn’t impress you more than it did. As you say, I find the premise interesting, and I was hoping to hear that you really liked it, as it was on my ‘maybe’ list. I’d heard some good things about it elsewhere too. Well…perhaps I’ll wait a bit longer on this one…

    • I feel a bit mean about this one and wouldn’t want to put anyone off. It’s getting great reviews elsewhere – and would have got 4-stars from me if it weren’t that I disliked how she ended it…

  2. It’s a pity, too, I think. I mean, it sounds like a great storyline–if done properly. (Is this a reason, do you suppose, women shouldn’t be trusted?) Emma seems dull, too, which would be vexing a bit, bits, and little bits.

    Is there a murder at the end?

    • Yes, it could have been great…oh, well! (You should never trust women – just stay away from them completely, especially A&L *spits a bit*. But not me…you can trust me… *angelically innocent face* ) Emma would have been vastly improved by being forced to watch Spiderman movies – then she’d have understood what true misery is!

      *laughing* I’m going to set up a second blog called “The Ends of Books to Save Professors from Having to Read Them”. In this particular case, Nina was just about to murder Emma when a formerly unknown herd of elephants stampeded through the South of France and kidnapped them both. They are now slaves of the Great Trumpeting Beast of Europe, and are forced to dance to jazz each evening… *shudders*

      • Never! Okay… Well, FEF doesn’t count since she’s like a…a…an advisor on such matters. Plus, BUS keeps you in line. *laughing* You could tell they were that bad from the ripios???

        Yes, please do!! *laughing lots and lots* I love this, and I think it’s a perfect story for a children’s book…how about it, FEF?

        Now, I’m thinking here…you like The Great Gatsby…and they would have danced to jazz!

        • FEF doesn’t count??? I think I just felt a katana pierce my heart!!! *laughing* Oh yes! I love the movie ripios – they give me such a great excuse never to watch any of these films…

          *laughing loads and curtseying* Look, I know the horrid little creatures are yucketh, but even I wouldn’t be that cruel to them!

          Hmm…once again, you do have a good point there. Which, to quote someone I know, is a wonder…

  3. Great review! It’s such a shame when an ending is disappointing. I often find, like you’ve said in your review, that it colours my feelings on the book as a whole (unless there are great redeeming features elsewhere…). I do have this book on my to-read list – the plot does sound intriguing!

    • Hopefully you’ll love it – lots of people are. The ending seems to be the thing that’s dividing opinion and I can see why other people think it’s a good ending even though I didn’t like it. I’ll look forward to hearing your opinion… 🙂

      • I might have to read it just to find out what this ending is that’s dividing so many people 😉 I shall probably try and read it soon, but the to-read list seems to be getting longer by the day…haha

  4. One of my book groups has just signed up for a project based around Lane’s first book, ‘Alys Always’ which I think took much better reviews than this one. I’m going to leave reading ‘Her’ until after the project is over, just in case it prejudices my judgement on the earlier work.

    • I haven’t read the first one, but I do get the impression it’s probably better than this one. But even this one was good enough to make me keen to read more of her stuff – really it’d have got a solid 4 stars if I hadn’t disliked the ending – and that’s as much a matter of personal taste as anything else.

  5. I have one on my TBR pile thanks to Naomi’s great review. I am sorry the book didn’t live to the hype to you. Do you think you’ll read more works by the author?

    • Yes, I think I would. In general, I thought she had a good writing style – the problems with this one, for me, were more structural and plotting. But I think it’s only her second book, so I think I’d definitely be interested enough to try another in the future…

  6. Nice review, I’ve been umming and aahing about getting this book. I think you’ve just made up my mind for me. The problem is, there are just too many brilliant books out there! 🙂

  7. I am sorry you didn’t like this one more – I liked the ending although I could see that others would have a problem with it. I read Copycat by Gillian White after I’d read this one and agree with you, Copycat is a superior story although I still think Her is worth a read 😉

    • Yes, it was definitely heading for 4 stars right up to the end, and then I was so put off by that that it made me feel much more critical towards the whole thing – it just seemed to mess up the psychology of it all. But it wouldn’t put me off reading another of her books in the future…

  8. Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy do people just keep writing in first person present tense with multiple people who sound just alike!?!?!? Do people actually read books written that way and say that they like the book *because* of the narration, or is always *in spite of* the narration style??? I really just need this trend to die. Maybe we can move on to something like second-person present-tense: “You look around and sigh. Everything looks as it did before, yet different. You wonder how this could be.”

    Well, maybe that wouldn’t be an improvement. But at least it would be a different type of obnoxious!

    • It’s such a bandwagon, and very few people can do it well. But no, I’ve seen a hundred comments criticising the style for evry one person who uses the cliche about it making things sound so ‘immediate’. I’m not saying it shouldn’t ever be used – but it should be used sparingly and in specific circumstances. Personally I’d also find it much harder to write in than good old past tense too…

      Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. I recently read a book that was written in three different voices. I did not like it. It was a two-book story from the various people’s voices, and I accidentally read the second one first which gave me all of the information from the first book thereby making it unnecessary to read the first. I found it painful reading the same thing over and over from different people. I say you did a public service. 😀

  10. Just got this book, so I thought I’d check out your review – I do hope I enjoy it more than you did! I’m totally with you on the “parenting is so hard” stuff when they never have financial woes, they always drive SUVs, they’re basically just isolated as their husband has a time-consuming job which earns them a fortune…imagine them on a scheme, with a damp house, no car, no partner, no safety net of money, just living week to week on benefits – that’s hard! I think publishers/agents/writers think only the middle classes read, and only want to read about the middle classes, when people from all backgrounds read…it’s sort of books for the Mumsnet set isn’t it…ok political rant over!

      • Yes Cleo’s tastes are v similar to mine when it comes to psychological thrillers; I look to you for non-fiction – history/politics/biography (Lady Fancifull’s a good source for books in this vein too!); and both of you are great judges of detective/crime fiction…in fact, the three of you are costing me a fortune! In the best possible way of course – buying books. I think I’ll hint to my sister for the Roy Jenkins’ biography for Christmas, it’s a pricey one…

  11. SPOILER ALERT – I’ve not long finished this, and came back to read your review again, esp re the ending. I was shocked at what a tiny thing it was that the whole vendetta hinged on. I’m not sure about the ending – at first, I hated it, but now I think it was quite daring, really. Now I have to totally forget your review (I’m so behind with my reviewing it’ll be a wee while before I get to this one anyway!)

    • SPOILER ALERT TOO – Yes, I thought it was too trivial to make any real sense. And the ending just didn’t fit the tone of the the rest of the book I felt, though I agree about the daring bit, I suppose. I’ll look forward to your review – I have to write mine more or less as soon as I finish the book or I forget everything about it!

  12. SPOILER ALERT – Tell me about it – one day I’ll end up getting all the books confused in a mish-mash of crime fiction! As long as I make notes of character names etc I’m not too bad, but I’m sure my brain will start deteriorating soon…as I was getting near the end and it became clear it had only a couple of pages left, I did wonder how it was going to end. It went through my mind that she ended it like that as she was just bored with the whole book and characters – they were intensely annoying, moaning over nothing, esp Nina who on the surface had a life most people could only dream of!

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