The Independent – Debut Fiction

‘the interlocking plots are cleverly and carefully enough constructed… something akin to poetry.’

Debut Fiction: secrets and lies set the scene for first-time novelists

From Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen to Elliot Ackerman’s Green on Blue
By Lucy Scholes

While Eileen retains sharp focus on what turns out to be a defining moment in the protagonist’s life – events over one Christmas that led to her leaving the town she grew up in, her “hell and home” – Mary Paulson-Ellis’s The Other Mrs Walker (Mantle, £12.99) takes a protracted look at her characters’ lives, weaving together two stories beginning nearly a century apart. In 2011 middle-aged Margaret Penny flees her life in London, seeking refuge with her elderly mother in Edinburgh. Meanwhile, back in 1929, a small girl greedily devours an orange given to her by her father while her mother gives birth to twins upstairs. All in all, it feels a little heavy, too much too densely packed together, but the interlocking plots are cleverly and carefully enough constructed – not to mention full of twists and turns – and Paulson-Ellis is reaching towards something akin to poetry with a syntax: “Then Margaret understood. Here was a woman just like her. Receptionist. Administrator. Personal Assistant in more ways than one. A dish on the side that never quite became the proper meal.”