The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson
Reads like this:
He knew what everyone would think, if he were caught. There would be scandal. He’d be called a Peeping Tom. A pervert. But that wasn’t so. Sure, he fantasized about Laura, but he had never seen her naked, and it was only when she had been breast-feeding March that he’d seen her breasts. If that had been the purpose of his visits he would have given up long ago. But that was not why he came. He wasn’t sure exactly why he did come, but it wasn’t for that. It reassured him to know that she was there, that was all. He came to check that everything was as it should be.
One of the dogs nuzzled his legs, and he reached down to pat it. When he looked up Laura was coming into the kitchen. She paused in the doorway and pushed her hair back off her face in a gesture of fatigue, and Arthur, who had looked up when she appeared, stood up, quite quickly for him, crossed the kitchen, put his arms around her and drew her close. Laura rested her head against his chest, her eyes closed. She rubbed his back, very gently, with her hands.
Ian watched, electrified. After a moment or two they separated, and began turning off the lights in preparation for going up to bed. But Ian stood on, long after the darkness had closed in around him, holding their image in his mind.
This was my main holiday read this year. It opens with a knife game between two young brothers and has all the hallmarks of the genesis of rivalry one associates with Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
My main fear during the first few pages was that Mary Lawson was engaged in writing a novel about good and evil, and that I would have to abandon it. But my fears were unfounded as the novelist skilfully drew out her characters and involved us into the complex relationships, achievements and failings of a community of truly human beings.
Once captured, I was a complete sucker for whatever followed in this interesting, controlled and moving novel. The finely-honed, complex characters set in a shifting social and economic climate are instantly accessible to our collective memory.
This is only her second novel, but Mary Lawson is definitely someone to watch.