Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable?
London, five months before 7/7. Georgie, a young woman wary of relationships after previous heartbreak, gives in and agrees to sleep with close friend Julian. She’s shocked when Julian reveals he’s loved her for a long time.
Sleeping together when they’d both had too much to drink changes the close, erstwhile completely platonic, friendship between Julian and Georgie forever. Georgie foolishly gives in to Julian’s pleading, despite her better judgement and lives to regret it when Julian declares his love for her. She doesn’t reciprocate his feelings and Julian takes it badly, especially so when Georgie becomes involved with Nikolai, an illegal Russian immigrant, who she met in a pub.
Georgie is drawn to Nikolai and very happy in their growing relationship. She is aware, due to Nikolai’s nightmares and scars, he has a dark past which he’s reluctant to share. Georgie also knows he was involved in the war between Russia and Chechnya, but again, is unaware of the details.
We lapse into silence. Another bus rattles past, empty of passengers. I cast around for something else to say.
‘Did you volunteer for the army?’
He looks at me as if I’ve suggested he eat a piece of rotten fruit.
‘No, I was conscript – they force me to be soldier. It is the way things are in my country. If you are boy, when you finish school you go into the army. Except if your family has money or they know people who can help you – or you go to university. I was not good student. I do not pass exams and my father cannot pay enough to bribe the medical officer.’
In this, her debut novel, Jennie Ensor has created a very well devised, well written, character driven narrative. Set just before, during and after the terror attacks on London, there are several threads and pertinent issues running through the story. The consequences of the bombing on the people it affected directly and indirectly are explored, along with relationships and the resulting multitude of feelings and emotions. We also get an insight into the plight of immigrant workers and the terrible discrimination they face.
Nikolai is a very intriguing character and I could see why Georgie becomes attracted to him. He has been affected badly by the horrors he witnessed during the war, the actions he took or didn’t take and the reason he is in London. His is a convincing characterisation, showing the terrible cost of war from both sides and how lies and secrets can spill over into civilian life, creating more problems and making Georgie question the relationship between them.
The story is told from Georgie’s perspective which gives a good insight into her character. She’s likeable, sympathetic and well drawn, honest and insecure. Not looking for love after the break up of her previous relationship, she considers her ill-fated night with Julian a mistake, just sex, and hoped they could resume their friendship. That seems an impossibility as things are awkward between them and Julian’s behaviour morphs drastically into intense and obsessive jealousy.
Nikolai’s accent is conveyed extremely well, I could all but hear him speaking as I was reading. The characters are all fleshed out wonderfully, including Georgie’s father, and the dialogue is realistic and believable, giving a clear picture of the personalities. I’m not sure I’d personally class it as a thriller but there’s a definitely psychological element and the story certainly gripped me. An excellent and perceptive debut which made me think.
I read and reviewed Blind Side voluntarily, based on a copy of the book supplied by the author/publisher.
About Jennie Ensor
Jennie Ensor is a Londoner descended from a long line of Irish folk. During a long period overseas she worked as a freelance journalist, covering topics from forced marriages to accidents in the mining industry.
These days Ms E lives in London with her husband and their cuddle-loving, sofa-hogging terrier. When not chasing the dog through local woodland or dreaming of setting off on an unfeasibly long journey with a Kindleful of books, she writes novels, short stories and poetry (published under another name). Her second novel, to be finished soon with any luck, is a dark and unsettling psychological drama.