Johnson (Everything Under) returns with a well-crafted, consistently surprising psychological thriller. September and July are teenage sisters, born 10 months apart. After an incident at their Oxford school, its dark details hinted at as the story unfolds, their mother, Sheela, whisks them away to the dilapidated house where September was born, on the desolate coast of the North York Moors, and holes up in her room, ill-advisedly leaving July at the mercy of her sister. September bullies, intimidates, and cruelly manipulates the passive, compliant July, daring her to perform increasingly dangerous acts in the form of games like “September Says.” September taunts a man who comes to set up their internet, and when the girls get online, they seduce men on dating sites and pretend to have entrapped them as part of a police sting. Sheela, meanwhile, writes and illustrates children’s picture books, and her deep depression contributes to her neglectful parenting (“I will always love you, she says. And if you need me you come get me. But I need some time,” July narrates). The sisters share an eerie, symbiotic relationship; they seem at times to share a single consciousness, and even a single body. In achingly lyrical prose, Johnson employs alternating narratives, divulging and withholding information by turns, keeping the reader unsure of what to believe. When the revelations hit, they are intensely powerful. Readers of classic gothic fiction will find a contemporary master of the craft here. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 05/18/2020 Release date: 08/25/2020 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.