Charlotte Moore

All shook up

Olivia Glazebrook’s first novel begins with a disaster.

Olivia Glazebrook’s first novel begins with a disaster.

Olivia Glazebrook’s first novel begins with a disaster. Kit, painter of meretricious society portraits, has whisked Alice, his younger, pregnant girlfriend, off to Jordan for an indulgent weekend. Their car skids off a mountain road leaving Alice trapped inside. Kit behaves like an unheroic imperialist. ‘You bloody little man, Karim!’, he yells at the driver, but it is Karim who reminds him that they ought to be aiding Alice. They are rescued, but not all the artifice of a luxury hotel can prevent Alice’s miscarriage. Blood pours out of her ‘as if she were a vase, carelessly knocked over on a table.’

Glazebrook is good with similes. The image of the vase mirrors the impact on their relationship of the loss of the unborn ‘Bean’. The shape of their shared life is broken; meaning collapses, and the rich, handsome couple are stranded in an emotional wasteland more sterile than the Jordanian desert.

Miscarriage features disproportionately rarely in novels, considering what a common catastrophe it is. The Trouble With Alice demonstrates with painful clarity how the loss exposes and widens existing unsuspected faultlines. Alice and Kit cease to communicate. Alice stops eating. She embarks on the anorexic’s timetable of deceits and self-punishments, intent on creating ‘a new version of herself’, one beyond the reach of others. Her only companion is Kit’s old lurcher, Bones.

Alice attempts to shut out the guilt and grief, the feeling that she failed her baby. Kit, only ever falsely enthusiastic about the pregnancy, reverts to bachelor selfishness —an easy step for him. One problem for me was the unlikeability of Kit, who does little more than say ‘Fuck’ a lot, smoke, and get irritated by people who make demands on him. He hardly notices when Alice moves out of the bedroom of his smart Notting Hill house and entombs herself in the basement with Bones.

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