In the 1990s I was a big fan of Lesley Glaister. Honour Thy Father, I thought, was superb in particular. And yet as time went on I started to find her work less satisfying. The writing started to seem derivative and the plots and scenarios increasingly less believable. I suppose it must be about eight years or so since I last read a Lesley Glaister novel, so I was not sure what to expect with her latest novel, Nina Todd Has Gone, which came out in paperback towards the end of last year.
In many ways the book’s themes are all familiar Glaister material – hidden secrets, psychological trauma (especially childhood trauma), outwardly conventional, but inwardly dysfunctional families, the rupture of respectability and sexual psychosis. A heady brew, for sure. Glaister’s work has often been described as being part of the psychological thriller genre and it’s not hard to see why. The narrative is fast-paced and she has the knack of creating what is often quaintly called a page-turner. But I think there is more to Glaister than that. Her characters are not so much social misfits running amok and causing havoc and terror. What is interesting about Glaister’s landscape is its banality, its mundaneness and even the understated nature of any psychotic behaviour. When the monotony of everyday life is disturbed it is like a temporary ripple before normality is restored. It is what makes what might be an unbelievable storyline something that you might think just could happen.
The other distinctive feature of Glaister’s writing is its economy. This is succinct prose, which is something I like and she fits into 250 pages what others may have taken 500 to do. I hesitate to say that with Nina Todd Has Gone Glaister is back to her old form. Maybe she was never away from it and maybe it was just the break that has done me good. But I enjoyed this book and fairly rattled through it.