Lane offers ‘Her’ psychological thriller

Posted February 19, 2015

By Harriet Lane


“Her” by Harriet Lane is a psychological thriller that starts slow, describing the lives and surroundings of two women: Emma and Nina, in great detail.

This is Lane’s second novel; her first was “Alys, Always”, which won numerous awards. Both of her books take place in London, England, because that is where she lives.

books28f-2-webAlthough many of the descriptions and metaphors are beautiful, there were so many throughout every single page that it was overdone. For example, Nina describes London in great detail at the beginning of the book.

“… in the lazy grip of August: the empty streets spotted with shade, the grass in the parks turning sparse and yellow, the heart coming in hard shimmering waves off parked cars.”

Emma and Nina live nearby each other in London, but their lives are entirely different. Nina, a painter who is married to a wealthy and sophisticated yet detached husband, spends her days going for coffee and taking leisurely strolls in the park when she isn’t daydreaming in her studio.

Emma, on the other hand, is always busy. She has two small children, who she describes as a constant struggle and full time job. Despite the fact that these women live very different lives, they are connected in a long lost, yet sinister way that is not revealed until close to the end of the book.

From the beginning, it is established that Nina is aware of exactly who Emma is; yet Emma has no clue who Nina is. Nina inserts herself into Emma’s life by doing secret things to cross paths with her, such as stealing her wallet or her child and then “finding” them, making it seem as if she has saved Emma from catastrophe.

Whenever there is an event in which Nina and Emma interact, it is always narrated twice: once by Emma and once by Nina. I found this to be a bit repetitive, however, it was necessary in order to fully establish both Nina’s diabolical planning and Emma’s aloofness.

From Emma’s point of view, the events that occur are always random and coincidental. However, when heard from Nina’s point of view, it becomes evident that nothing was an accident; everything that happened was essentially staged.

Another interesting aspect of this book is how it portrays married life with kids. Emma, who used to have a career in TV, is now a stay-at-home mom. Although they are not considered wealthy, they have enough money to live a comfortable life. Her husband is nice, yet he is a bit oblivious when it comes to taking care of the kids.

Emma is usually unhappy in her day-to-day life, yet feels lucky when she reflects on her life as a whole. Her days are filled with diaper changing, cooking, and cleaning; she alludes to the fact that she has nothing much to look forward to anymore, besides hanging out with Nina because she thinks that Nina understands her. However, in reality Nina simply tells Emma what she wants to hear in order to manipulate her.

On the other hand, Lane seems to idealize the life that Nina has. Although she does have a 17-year-old daughter named Sophie, she generally stays out of the way, consumed in her own teenage life and uninterested in her parent’s affairs.

“Sophie’s face, I think, is like the moon, cold, mysterious, remote. I look at my child now, standing there in the hall in martyred resignation … and I’m not sure who she is.”

Nina generally has her days free to paint and do whatever else she pleases. This is the major reason why Emma takes the bait and accepts Nina’s friendship. The idea of a woman with spare time on her hands seemed incredibly appealing to Emma, considering the hectic lifestyle she feels constantly trapped in, as if “… you’re running the wrong way on a conveyor belt, never getting anywhere.”

However, the main focus of this book centers on a female friendship; or at least what one of them thinks is a friendship. However, Emma and her husband sometimes wonder why someone like Nina would have an interest in becoming friends with Emma; as if it’s too go to be true. Even Nina’s husband and daughter don’t understand why Nina is so friendly to Emma.

With each chapter of the book, there is a build up in suspense. Why is Nina so deadest on revenge? What did Emma do that is so horrible? How could Nina recognize Emma, but Emma not recognize Nina? Although the end of the book answers all of these questions, the ending was extremely anticlimactic because it was entirely vague and open to interpretation.

Nina’s reason for avenging Emma is not plausible at all. It doesn’t fit Nina’s character, because throughout the rest of the book she comes across as very reasonable and understanding with everyone she interacts with. Needless to say, the suspense throughout most of the book was enjoyable, but the ending was not satisfying.

  • “Her”
  • By Harriet Lane
  • Publisher: Little, Brown, and Co.
  • Release date: Jan. 6, 2015
  • Price: $19.26
  • Format: Hardcover