Anyone who’s read Holly Pester’s debut poetry collection, Comic Timing, will know she’s a fresh and distinctive voice: her poems are raw, uncompromising, funny, colloquial, and alive. They focus on, among other things, politics, poverty, female bodies and the injustice of the rent economy. These topics are also covered in her debut novel, The Lodgers, with equal measures of vinegar and verve.
It tells the story of a woman who could be described as a drifter, but as we find out more about her peripatetic existence and the circumstances that contributed to it, we learn the truth is more complex than that. After years of moving from room to room, the woman has recently returned to her hometown, into a lodging around the corner from her wayward, absent mother’s house.
Absences abound throughout the book, and the woman fills them with her own projections – she speculates about the life her mother is living, as well as that of her mysterious co-tenant Kav, and she conjures an entire relationship between her former landlady, her former landlady’s daughter, and a sort of alternate, shadow self – a woman who is both her and not her. It’s a strange idea, brilliantly and movingly rendered.
The Lodgers, Holly Pester (Granta)
Price: £14.99. Info: here
words JOSHUA REES