The Lodgers by Holly Pester - review by Lucy Thynne

Lucy Thynne

Waiting for Mother

The Lodgers


Granta 224pp £14.99

Broke, lonely and taking some ‘time out’, the unnamed narrator of The Lodgers moves back to the small English town where she grew up. Nothing about her sublet appeals: it has a ‘triangular shape’ like a sandwich box, and there’s a distinct aroma of men and ‘instant noodles’. She’s chosen it because it overlooks her mother’s house – except, when she goes round to visit, her mother is never there. ‘What to think about next?’ she wonders. ‘I considered leaving but that felt too familiar, a dumb accident I was doomed to repeat.’ 

Things get stranger. With the narrator’s mother absent, she starts remembering her old room through the eyes of the woman replacing her. ‘Today you’re nervous, because you’re starting something new … You’re lumbering, fool-bound to rules.’ It’s never clear whether the person being addressed is real, but as the difference between them becomes less and less distinct – both women float around stagnant towns and encounter leery men – Holly Pester neatly expresses how lodging makes you amorphous. To lodge, she writes, you must ‘adapt and hide [your] needs rather than dig down, simply hover without much substance, meekly occupy’.

Pester is a poet and this novel shows

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