Some people, Marie knows, smash through life while paying no heed to unseen vibrations, to shadows and subtleties. Though no stranger to violent impulses herself, she prefers to leave as soft an impression as possible, like her careful fingers creating the sea in a 3-D rendering of William Dyce’s ‘Pegwell Bay’: ‘Very gently I pressed my thumbs down on the gold leaf not wanting to tear it, gently gently till the surface became rippled, like a gilt shimmer on water capturing the last of the day’s sun in the low tide, clinging to those last bits of illumination.’
As Fiction Uncovered announces its 2012 best of British fiction selection, I review one of the picks, This is Life by Dan Rhodes, alongside another Paris-set novel, You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik. I loved them both, although the latter’s controversial provenance makes for a complicated reading experience.
Dora’s own doctorly ambitions were thwarted by her father, who was of the firm opinion that studying medicine ‘would ruin her eyes, her looks, her reproductive health and any prospect of a settled future’, so she’s only too pleased that her duties for Dr Kemble extend well beyond typing and filing. In her first week she’s posing as the ‘alley murder’ victim while the doctor tears at her blouse to see ‘whether the assailant was left- or right-handed’, attending a ‘morbid anatomy demonstration’ on a man hideously ravaged by tertiary syphilis, and sitting in the public gallery of the ‘charm bracelet murder’ trial, where Dr Kemble is giving evidence in the case of another dead blonde, this one older and, as the defence counsel damningly establishes, ‘fond of society’.