‘Who mournes the death of strangers?’
Twice the Speed of Dark is the debut novel from Unbound author Lulu Allison. Just published, it tells the story of a mother and daughter who, although separated through death, are still tied together with invisible threads!!
This is quite a profound book and the first book in a long time that I felt the need to read out loud…
Please continue reading for my full thoughts…
A mother and daughter circle each other, bound by love, separated by fatal violence.
Dismayed by the indifference she sees in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, trying to understand the real impact of their deaths.
Meanwhile Anna’s daughter, killed by a violent boyfriend, tells her own story from the perplexing realms of death, reclaiming herself from the brutality.
Anna’s life is stifled by heartache; it is only through these acts of love for strangers that she allows herself an emotional connection to the world.
Can Anna free herself from the bondage of grief and find a connection to her daughter once more?
Twice the Speed of Dark is a very complex novel dealing with the subject of tormented grief in quite an unusual manner. Anna is totally immersed in grieving for her daughter Caitlin who was brutally taken from her ten years previously. Unable to cope with life, Anna moves around in a permanent state of despair, seeing very little in her day that gives her hope. After the murder of Caitlin, Anna’s marriage disintegrated as her husband Michael was no longer able to deal with the constant presence of Caitlin in every minute of their lives. Michael needed to move on in any way he could, but always with Caitlin’s memory close to his heart. Anna is unable to do this and is eaten up inside with the pain of losing her only daughter.
Anna has some very close friends who look out for her but Anna finds their company a little overbearing at times. She retires early from her job with the intention of doing something a little different with her life, but soon find the daily routines quite monotonous. Anna decides to write but what she chooses to write about is something very very unusual. Anna writes about the dead. Her notes become a personal diary recounting the imagined personalities of those who have been fatally injured in bombings and such tragic events around the world. She creates characters with features, age and social standing.
‘She is striking, with a face that is powerful rather than beautiful. Her features are strong and dark, a sheen of expensive face cream smoothed over rugged bone structure. She is quick to see the worst in people but has depths of compassion that spring up occasionally, lava-like, hot, undeniable and impulsive……’
The people she writes about become part of her daily life as her thoughts spread out on paper.
Meanwhile we get a very close insight into the life and death of Caitlin, when at nineteen years of age her life was taken from her in a savage attack by her then boyfriend Ryan. Caitlin’s story is told in italics with chapters scattered throughout the book. Caitlin is an ethereal figure who appears trapped in another realm. Unable to loosen the threads to our living world, she watches her mother from a distance, watching as the lust for life is gradually sucked out of her mother.
‘Sometimes the black has a thickness like wax. With a little more substance I might leave scratches on it as I pass. I bare my imaginary teeth, pull down through, make a track, a groove. The darkness of space could be played like a record. The needle of the gods, a diamond the size of a skyscraper, so clear as to be almost invisibly black, lowered gently to read the roar of our passing’
Caitlin’s story is full of darkness and sadness. Once a very happy girl with the world at her feet, we hear her story and we hear of her demise.
Caitlin is unable to fathom fully this new world that her body now inhabits and her anguish at the cards dealt her is very evident in her words.
Twice the Speed of Dark tells the story of a mother and daughter as they flow in constant proximity to each other, but yet are unable to ever see each other. What do any of us really know what to expect in the afterlife? Lulu Allison takes her readers on a quite a spiritual journey, a journey into the unknown, ‘the realm of death.’ A mother’s love is very strong for their child through both life and death. In this novel, Lulu Allison explores this further as we witness the longing, the hope, the heartache and the pain of bereavement.
It’s very obvious from the very vivid descriptions throughout the novel that Lulu Allison uses her own personal love of the ‘visual’. As an artist she tells her story using colour, depicting places and settings with very strong imagery. At the beginning I said that I read many sections of Twice the Speed of Dark out loud. I can’t quite fathom why this was but something about the language used benefited greatly from the spoken word.
Twice the Speed of Dark is a very different novel. Lulu Allison writes with a unique style that is almost quite literary in it’s prose. It’s a very interesting concept with grief unfortunately being something we all experience at some point in our lives. An unconventional read, Twice the Speed of Dark is an accomplished debut from a new writer.
Purchase Link ~ Twice the Speed of Dark
About the Author:
L R Allison has spent most of her life as a visual artist. She attended Central St Martin’s School of Art then spent a number of years travelling and living abroad. Amongst the bar-tending and cleaning jobs, highlights of these years include: in New Zealand, playing drums for King Loser and bass for Dimmer. In Germany, making spectacle hinges in a small factory and nearly designing the new Smurfs. In Amsterdam painting a landmark mural on a four storey squat. In Fiji and California, teaching scuba diving.
After a decade of wandering, she returned to the UK, where she had two children and focused on art. She completed a fine art MA and exhibited her lens-based work and site-specific installations in group and solo shows.
In 2013 what began as an art project took her into writing and she unexpectedly discovered what she should have been doing all along.
Twice the Speed of Dark is her first book. She is currently writing a second, called Wetlands.
Twitter ~ @LRAllison77
Although not a book that I think I could read at the moment this does sound like an unusual and thought-provoking read and your review is excellent.
Cleo thank you. That means alot! It’s definitely thought provoking and quite deep about how we cope I guess with grief. V interesting but also there is a rawness to Anna’s feelings so yes you would need to be in the right place.. xx