I really enjoy Sarah Pinborough’s work. I’m not in love with every novel – I haven’t even read every novel as she is impressively productive across a range of genres – but more than her sharp dialogue, honed plot lines, and moments of beautiful observation, I love her ideas. This is a writer who sees something, writes about it, and makes you think. All this whilst the pages pass in a blur as you read eager to find out what happens next.
Ideas and thrills, it’s a tough combination and one that I expect will lead to Sarah Pinborough being much more highly acclaimed than she already is. Though I’m delighted that Behind Her Eyes will be BBC Radio 4’s book at bedtime from 20th March – this could lead to some unnerving dreams – and it is already a New York Times bestseller. So perhaps this will be the book to make Pinborough a household name. This would be well-deserved.
Behind Her Eyes is all of the things I mention above. You could argue there is a magical real or science fiction element to the novel, and it’s probably in the psychological thriller genre, but categories don’t really sit well with Sarah Pinborough. Behind Her Eyes is simply the novel it is: an obsessive love story with four characters at its heart. I’m prepared to say that lucid dreaming is central to the plot, but I don’t want to say more because uncovering what might be behind whose eyes is what propels us through the book and saying more would spoil the joys of discovery.
One of the characters says ‘people are only out for themselves’ and there is a natural savagery to this book that puts our acceptance of reality in question. As I said earlier, this is where Sarah Pinborough is so pleasing to read: she shows us that what we think we know about the world around us is only a tiny fraction of what is out there, or even what is in here (inside our heads). Being able to point this out in a dynamic page-turner makes Pinborough playful, clever, provocative and fun to read.
I don’t want say a lot more about the novel because I simply would like to know what you think. Read it. See if the characters of David, Adele, Louise and Rob come alive for you. Watch them have their affairs, keep their secrets, grow increasingly complex relationships. Then get back to me. If you enjoy it, you will definitely want to read The Language of Dying, my favourite of her novels that I’ve read so far.
Next week I’m reading Blind Side by Jennie Ensor.