Two women going away to realise their creative projects; two small islands within a short distance of each other; two narratives running in parallel until they converge on an uncertain ending. Such is the basis of Alison Moore’s engaging fifth novel, in which things recur, mirror and nestle within one another, filling the pages to saturation.
Sandra, an aspiring artist, has been looking forward to her retreat, but she soon starts to feel that ‘she is in the wrong house, and her community of artists does not exist, or at least she is not a part of it’. Carol, in turn, locks herself away to write a fantasy novel, potentially the first in a series. ‘But a novel does not write itself. She writes her novel. Or rather … she does not.’ The smell of garlic permeating both places and the absence of a mobile signal are just two of the many inconveniences that distract the women from their endeavours.
‘Hell is other people’ would make an apt title for the sections of the novel focusing on Sandra: part sitcom, part portrait of the artist as a misfit. Her fellow retreaters dislike her from the start for no real reason – even before it transpires that she is the