Nobody writes about Preston quite like Jenn Ashworth; though it has to be said that until her dark and funny debut A Kind of Intimacy appeared two years ago, nobody wrote about the place much at all. Yet the former librarian's dispatches from the Preston front appear not only in her novels but on an acclaimed blog, where she states that she is "on a mission to bring Lancashire to the literary world".
A Kind of Intimacy was a macabre account of an obese woman's curtain-twitching obsession with the people next door; her second, Cold Light, is another cleverly skewed tale told from the self-conscious perspective of an outsider struggling with chronically low self-esteem. Laura is in her late 20s, lives on her own and works as a cleaner at the local shopping centre; though the bulk of the tale concerns her reminiscences of her schoolfriend Chloe, who drowned in an apparent suicide pact with her boyfriend on Valentine's day, 1998. Since then, a tenacious local media campaign has begun the process of "making Chloe a saint", which Laura observes with a combination of bemusement and disdain: "Being dead has turned her into a final draft. The patron saint of lovers and dead schoolgirls."
Laura recalls the hysteria which surrounded the discovery of the bodies: "Even through the window we could feel the atmosphere which was shrieky and curious and raw." It is a sentence that seems to sum up Ashworth's writing – arrestingly observant, oddly constructed and just a little shrill. But she captures the maudlin tendency to bewail a tragedy irrespective of the facts. Ten years after Chloe's death, plans are under way to erect a memorial shelter by the pond: "It's morbid and sentimental, but it ticks all the right boxes for community enterprise funding – something for the teenagers to sniff their glue in."
The beatification of Chloe stands in stark contrast to the aggressive, capricious, badly behaved girl Laura used to tag along with. "In death, 'wilful' becomes 'spirited' and 'bully' becomes 'stubborn'." Ashworth draws an entirely credible portrait of a teenage relationship based on the dominant partner's readiness to try everything first, before spinning the plot off on a darker tangent involving the activities of a sex offender who may or may not be connected to the disappearance of a man with Down's syndrome whom Laura was last to see alive. But the writing is less remarkable for its handling of suspense than Ashworth's ability to pinpoint authentically aimless teenage behaviour or to make even a dowdy mall in the post-Christmas slump seem numinous: "still prickling with silver tinsel and the air clogged with the dry solvent smell of spray-on frost".
The temptation, for anyone blessed with such facility, is to lay it on a little thick; and there are points at which recurring speculation over whatever went on at the pond feels suspiciously like treading water. Laura spends an uncommon amount of time glued to local news bulletins: "I imagine this footage spinning on a loop for years and years and years . . . and I realise even the most exciting things become boring if they are repeated often enough." One might add that even the most luminous writing becomes dulled if the plot is left to drag on inconclusively for too long. Yet Ashworth's second book confirms that the first was no one-off. It will be intriguing to see whether she casts her net farther afield or keeps mining the muddy seam of the Ribble valley that has become her own. In either case, her talent could take her a long way: maybe even as far as Blackburn.
Essay on Cold War Book Review
670 Words3 Pages
Political and economic perspectives should not dominate the analysis of communist rule. Analysis of the social aspects and results of communist rule are necessary to achieve a full understanding of the effects of such government. Slavenka Drakulic produced How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, an appealing work with this fresh social approach. This nonfiction work combines the author’s own recollections with the stories of other women of the Eastern Bloc.
Drakulic, a renowned journalist and writer, utilizes her keen eye for detail and truth in this quest that shows how communism has devastating effects on the common citizen. She provides insight into the conditions of life for women within a communist system. Several…show more content…
Her stories focus on one topic at a time and colorful descriptions fill the pages. For example, Drakulic describes the influence her new doll had on her childhood ideas of the status of women:
…nobody told us why a doll (a girl, a woman)
had to be pretty. We just knew it had to be
so. We painted their little lips and nails bright
red, and dressed them in tight sexy dresses,
even if we didn’t know what it was all about…
Sometimes I think that at that early age I
learned everything about my sex from these