This is a very impressive and unsettling literary novel. Lizzie, the narrator, is 14. Her father has left home and her mother doesn’t seem to be coping too well in his absence. Lizzie spends an unhealthy amount of time holed up in her bedroom, practising her calligraphy, tending her Victorian bottle collection and making devious and elaborate plans. These generally involve eloping with Mr Phillips, the shopkeeper (if only he would stop being so obtuse and realise that he and Lizzie are destined to be together), or exacting revenge upon people who have displeased her (there is no shortage of candidates, although her younger sister provides a particular focus for Lizzie’s ire).
But things don’t turn out quite as Lizzie hopes – and although the novel contains a fair amount of humour, it ends up exploring some fairly dark territory (which I won’t say any more about for fear of spoiling the plot). What really made this novel work for me was Lizzie’s narration - which I found utterly compelling, in spite of the fact that she is hardly sympathetic, being both highly manipulative and at times vindictive. Overall, the novel reminded me of a cross between Zoe Heller’s “Notes on a Scandal” and Iain Banks’ “The Wasp Factory.” For a slightly longer review which (among other things) explains this possibly slightly bizarre comparison in more detail, see:
(review of free book)