What I like very much about both Harriet Lane's novels, this and its predecessor Alys Always is that they are psychological thrillers with women at the centre. This isn't the fare of a man stalking a woman, or of a spy on the run; but stories very much set in real world terms, in ordinary lives, about the havoc one woman can wreak if she sets her mind to it.
The story splits its narrative between Nina, a successful artist and Emma who had a great career in the media before leaving it to look after her children. Nina encounters Emma and knows at once it's HER, but Emma doesn't recall Nina at all.
The beauty part of Her, is that both Nina and Emma are tremendously relatable to female readers.
At some point everyone in their life has been Nina, a girl dissatisfied with her own life who becomes angered by another girl whose life seems perfect, who seems to have everything you yourself wish you had but who even more gratingly, neither recognises or appreciates their luck.
The world is also full of Emmas, women who sacrificed a career to be a stay at home Mum, and feel themselves slowly disappearing into the monotony of meal prep, and tantrums and Mums and Tots.
Nina inveigles herself into the world of Emma in much the same fashion as Frances Thorpe (Alys, Always) does before her, and as she digs her way through possessions and photo albums whilst babysitting, in many ways this feels like an excess in nosiness rather than anything very sinister.
Emma becomes very quickly dependent on the glamorous Nina, and this too is understandable. Nina genuinely does see the Emma she used to be, and Emma climbs aboard that life raft like the drowning woman she feels she is. But Nina doesn't want to save Emma, Nina wants to destroy her.
The descriptions of daily life, and the human condition in general are very much spot on, at times razor sharp in their accuracy, so much so that as someone who writes myself, I found myself thinking 'but that description is just perfect' and started to envy Harriet Lane's prose skills.
The real jaw to the floor moment is when you discover exactly what Emma did to make Nina hate her so much, to be consumed by a psychopathic need for revenge; and this discovery, just turns the book from a toxic friendship story into something very frightening indeed.
Reminiscent of Notes From A Scandal by Zoe Heller, this book will make excellent beach or plane reading this summer, I suggest getting a copy to stash in your carry-on bag.