Longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize 2019
‘Something terrible is happening here. Something terrible has already happened.’
Kiev 1992. Rachel, a troubled young English mother, joins her journalist husband on his first foreign posting in the city. Terrified of the apartment's balcony, she develops obsessive rituals to keep their baby safe. Her difficulties expose her to a disturbing endgame between the elderly caretaker and a local racketeer who sends a gift that surely comes with a price. Rachel is isolated yet culpable with her secrets and estrangements. As consequences bear down she seeks out Zoya, her husband's fixer, and the boy from upstairs who watches them all.
Home is uncertain, betrayal is everywhere, but in the end there are many ways to be a mother.
‘An unforgettable story. The claustrophobia is palpable, and the characters are utterly convincing in this beautifully observed novel. Outstanding.’ —Claire Fuller
‘This is a fascinating portrayal of Kiev and its people, written with skill, depth and sympathy but never shying away from darker facets. At its heart is the story of a marriage, of motherhood, and of a place contaminated by its terrible history. It is an alluring and gratifying read.’ —Jackie Law, neverimitate
‘This was a complex and compelling story and there is a sense of unease throughout, as we see a contrast between the mundane aspects of daily life and survival, and the threats that arise from a country’s recent troubles. And at the heart of it all there is a story of a marriage, and of motherhood, as Rachel is forced to confront her fears, both real and imagined, as she adapts to family life in a claustrophobic environment.’ —Nat Marshall, the owl on the bookshelf
‘This is a gritty story that strips emotions and fears to their ultimate exposure while I became entwined in each of these people’s lives. The tough weren’t as tough and the weak had more strength than I thought they could ever have. Beautifully written I was captivated by the harsh conditions of this country and its people.’ —Susan Hampson, Books from Dusk Till Dawn
‘★★★★★ Yes, this city of malaise does not make for a most joyful read, or particularly one you would dash to return to, but it’s a very interesting and clever read. With no narrative tricksiness it shows us the author’s knowledge of that time and place, and more importantly a wonderful character, one who struggles with her new-found family and her new-found sense of displacement. Rich and readable, this is well worth turning to.’ —John Lloyd, NB Magazine
‘Judith Heneghan paints a compassionate portrait of a young woman gripped by anxieties in an alien land. If only her mother, back in England, weren’t so critical. If only her husband weren’t so ambitious for his career. The novel’s tension lies in whether Rachel is under or overestimating the danger, and whether the marriage will survive. The claustrophobia and exhaustion of new motherhood echoes the pathos of a country in recovery from a traumatic past.’ —Anne Goodwin, Annecdotal
‘There is a very distinct and haunting sense of unease running throughout this book, which I love. I was constantly questioning every characters motives and behaviours. With an almost claustrophobic quality, Judith Heneghan’s story telling skills are superb. She crafts a very compelling story which builds tension at a perfect pace. Whilst this is a fascinating story of the people of Kiev, it’s social landscape and events of the time, it is ultimately a portrait of a marriage and motherhood, which held me captivated.’ —Amanda Chatterton, Bookish Chat