Alice Sebold is a master of openings. Who can forget the beginning of The Lovely Bones: ‘After I was dead, I thought about how there had been the light scent of cologne in the air…’. And now: ‘After all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.’ It’s not mere sensationalism: The Lovely Bones was a rich and touching novel, which deserved its huge success. The Almost Moon is even more shocking, and its publishers will hope to make a packet out of it. But that is not Sebold’s fault. What she hopes, I imagine, is what all true writers hope: to stir us to deeper thought and feeling about the tragedy of life – or in her case, as in Conrad’s, the horror.
Helen, our narrator, spends her working life stripping naked for a life class, which neatly conveys her intention: to strip away all covering and reveal the naked truth. As she says when she decides to kill her mother: ‘Shit is shit and truth is truth.’ It would have been even