Source: Review copy
Publication: 1ST July 2021 from Faber and Faber
There was no reason to assume anything out of the ordinary was going on.
Strange noises in the apartment.
It wasn’t like everything went wrong all at once.
There must be a reasonable explanation for all this.
I’m old enough to have read this first time around, but my memory of it is so good that I could not resist revisiting Sarah Gran’s Come Closer. This is a book that has lost none of its grip; none of its power. Come Closer is a novella. The writing is spare and taut and the beauty of it lies in its narrative structure.
Come Closer centres on Amanda, an accomplished architect, newly married to Ed. They have recently moved into an industrial loft space they plan to make their own. They are deliriously happy, but then things start to go wrong…badly wrong.
The couple begin to hear disturbing tapping sounds and Amanda dreams vivid and colourful dreams of a once imaginary friend. Over several nights these dreams intensify until Amanda ‘s head is full of troubled thoughts.
Gran’s story focusses solely on Amanda as she struggles to understand what is happening to her. Small, incremental changes in her behaviour make a troubling difference to the way she sees herself. As Gran delves deep into her psyche, it is difficult to know whether there are external forces at work or whether Amanda is slowly losing her mind. Either way, Gran’s exploration is both creepy and very unsettling.
Gran lays out small and subtle changes to Amanda’s personality, and as these increase, so does the pace of the book. Small incidents cause concern – a dog in the railway station behaves differently; Amanda finds that there are periods of time she cannot account for.
As Amanda grows more fearful, so there are people in her life who offer innocent explanations for what she is experiencing. Gran’s portrait is of a woman in turmoil who fears she is losing her mind is brilliantly executed and the sense of Amanda’s isolation is heightened in every chapter.
Gran’s writing is dark and comes with a really dark edged and cutting humour, just right to add that additional level of creepiness to this story. The reader does not know how much of what Amanda is telling us is reliable and she begins to behave like a paranoid schizophrenic.
It is in the struggle for control over Amanda’s mind and body that Gran excels, delivering just the right amount of tension and creepiness to weird us out, without ever losing the logical narrative structure of the story.
Verdict: Creepy, chilling and dark, this is a novella in which the reader can do nothing but watch the slow implosion of a woman’s mind as the sense of danger and mental invasion crawls out of every corner and wraps itself around Amanda’s mind. Dark, dangerous and riveting, this story has no happy ending. This book is a one sitting read and goodness it makes an impact! Well done to Faber for reviving it. This one more than stands the test of time.
Sara Gran is the author of five critically acclaimed novels, including Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Come Closer and Dope. She also writes for film and TV (including TNT’s ‘Southland’) and has published in The New York Times, The New Orleans Times Picayune, and USA Today