London artist Beth Penn, the protagonist of this elegant if uneven psychological thriller from Briscoe (Touched), becomes so anxious about the bond between her and daughter Fern as the girl approaches 13, the age at which her own mother walked out of her life, that she risks driving Fern away—one of the main reasons that her husband suggests therapy. Beth, who’s secretly feeling somewhat stuck in their marriage and in her painting career, agrees. Beth swiftly falls under the spell of her therapist, Tamara Bywater, focusing less on the issues she came to explore than the mystery of just what lies behind Tamara’s Mona Lisa smile and Beth’s conviction that they are destined to become close friends—if not more. Tamara initially responds by saying all the right things about transference and professional boundaries, but leaves the door open a tantalizing crack, with disastrous results. After a powerful first half in which the relationship between the two dances largely in the realm of possibility, the plot becomes less convincingly messy. Nonetheless, credit Briscoe with provocatively plumbing a pair of complex women ready to risk all to feel electrically alive. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"[A] sizzling new thriller... Briscoe has a dreamy, elliptical style that reflects the dreamy, elliptical sensibilities of her characters. The Seduction examines the life of one such woman, Beth, a London artist whose psychological upheavals over what she has lost, what she is afraid of losing, what she wants threaten to unravel her family and destroy her sanity." - New York Times Book Review
“Provocatively plumb[s] a pair of complex women ready to risk all to feel electrically alive.” Publishers Weekly
“Briscoe slowly and skillfully unspools the sexual and psychological tension to the breaking point . . . Like the smooth surface of an oil painting, the novel presents a slickly beautiful vision of fantasy, layered under with ferocious, stabbing brushstrokes of pain. A haunting novel that lays bare the ugliness of narcissism at its most extreme.” Kirkus Reviews
“Compelling, erotically charged . . . Delve[s] sharply into the fraught connections between mothers and daughters and the way those connections reverberate across generations. Spare but richly poetic language makes an insightful literary thriller.” Booklist
“Joanna Briscoe writes with elegance and passion about the clashes, misunderstandings and silences between generations” Maggie O'Farrell
“Her prose is beguilingly good” Elizabeth Day, Observer
“Dark, sexy, compelling” Sofka Zinovieff
“Briscoe weaves compelling fiction. The prose is rich, the setting evocative” Guardian
“A vivid and passionate writer. She plunges headlong into sticky themes of desire, love and hatred, uncovering the unpalatable parts of the psyche with an unflinching eye” Sunday Times
“A passionate and humorous storyteller, Briscoe is a writer who puts her reader's pleasure first” Independent
“Elegiac, beautiful, evocative ... Works in much the same way as an obsession ... you may wish to escape, but have already become addicted” Anita Sethi, Daily Telegraph
“Seductive, scary and almost frighteningly readable” Julie Myerson
When a woman falls under the thrall of an unscrupulous therapist, she must reconcile with the demons of her past in order to confront the present.
Beth is drifting through life with some appearance of ease, a successful London artist with a precocious preteen daughter and a charmingly attentive and supportive husband. In fact, it’s Sol’s suggestion that she seek out therapy as Fern’s 13th birthday approaches; Beth was abandoned by her own mother when she was 13, and he wants to help her navigate the inevitably painful memories that will arise. So Beth begins to meet with Dr. Tamara Bywater, but as therapy continues, she begins to feel more and more estranged from her daughter. Sol and Tamara both try to soothe her, reminding her that it's natural teen behavior to pull away and acknowledging Beth’s own baggage when it comes to mothering, but soon, Beth and Fern are barely speaking. When Tamara begins to make friendly overtures, Beth is flattered and desperate to keep her attention. Slowly, she finds herself deeply fascinated by Tamara, open to a flirtation that will threaten everything she holds dear. Briscoe slowly and skillfully unspools the sexual and psychological tension to the breaking point; even as it becomes apparent to the reader that Tamara Bywater is disturbed and manipulative, we can't help but understand, for a time, Beth’s clinging to the adventure and romance she offers. Buried at the heart of Beth’s choices are her own fears that she is, in fact, unlovable, as proven by her mother’s constant rejection. Like the smooth surface of an oil painting, the novel presents a slickly beautiful vision of fantasy, layered under with ferocious, stabbing brushstrokes of pain.
A haunting novel that lays bare the ugliness of narcissism at its most extreme.