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I first noticed this book at the London Book Fair, then forgot about it. For some reason, I discovered it again and ordered a copy from Waterstone's. Then it came up in Sam Jordison's Not the Booker Prize on the Guardian's book blog, so I gave it a great thwack up the TBR pile, the sort of thwack I used to deliver to the ball on serving in volleyball at school (the only sport I've ever been any good at).
If my memory serves me well here, at the LBF the novel was being touted as 'Rendellesque': one of the reasons it caught my eye. But the back cover synopsis also caught my eye. It's the tale of a woman seeking pastures new, someone who is obese and lonely, someone who can't connect that easily.
As it transpires on reading, A Kind of Intimacy is a tale that combines a unique blend of the misguided application of logic; the presence of outstanding, but believable naivety; humour; the seeking of a connection to other human beings in a meaningful way and an ever-darkening horizon with tension about to blow. Our unreliable narrator Annie has a past: we know nothing of the 'why' and 'what' at the start, but we quickly learn that she is compulsive liar and although she applies logic to her interactions, this is often skewed. So much so, it becomes the kebab on a neighbour's BBQ and cooked to a frazzle.
Wonderfully, Annie may get it wrong but we still have sympathy for her, because she's trying ever so hard. She uses self-help books to guide her and wants to leave her past behind. She accepts she gets it wrong sometimes, but takes advice and moves on. Alas, she is fixated on her next door neighbour Neil, believing that they have a future, even though he is in a serious relationship with his younger partner Lucy.
Please excuse the clichés, but this is a compelling page-turner. A Kind of Intimacy proved to be exactly what the title said. It's also another novel that reflects contemporary life, identifying the damage that can be caused in childhood.
Expect sadness in the end and an explosive climax (obviously coming); but Annie's optimism will remain to the fore. This is a fantastic debut and a very worthy of selection for Waterstone's New Voices 2009. I will certainly read more from Jenn Ashworth.