It’s fun to find a novel in which the emotional and physical topography is so clearly recognisable. The events of Claire Lowdon’s sharp debut, Left of the Bang, take place among the young and privileged of contemporary west London, a world with which I happen to be familiar (albeit as a chippy dinner guest or wayward child’s Common Entrance tutor), and she skewers this particular smart set in a fashion no less cruel for its apparent patience. She has Evelyn Waugh’s willingness to inflict gruesome plot twists on her Bright Young Things. Her title is taken from a military term for the lead-up to an explosion. Lowdon’s explosion, we assume, will be the consummation of a much-telegraphed affair between concert pianist Tamsin and Afghanistan-bound soldier Chris. It turns out to be an actual explosion.
Great care is taken in juxtaposing the narratives people create for themselves with those that life uses to upend them. This allows Lowdon to pull off the singular trick of being at once empathetic and quite mean. It’s easy to miss this