Harrison, Kathryn Envy

ISBN 13: 9780007216611

Envy

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9780007216611: Envy

From the author of ‘The Kiss’ and ‘The Binding Chair’ comes an intense novel of dark secrets and sexual betrayal.

‘Envy’ is the powerful modern story of Will, an analyst whose marriage is in trouble. Was it the accidental death of their child Luke in a boating accident that got the marriage to this point? Or is Will going through some sort of mid-life crisis?

Will's twin brother Mitch has cast a shadow over his life. Mitch is an Olympic swimmer physically identical to Will except that he was born with disfiguring facial marks. For reasons that are gradually revealed, Mitch has been banished from the family.

The sexual problems in Will's marriage follow him to the office, where he finds himself aroused by every female patient regardless of looks. Will is tortured by the idea that he may have fathered a daughter by a woman who is not his wife. This woman, now aged 25, is about to enter his life and cause havoc. In prose that has all the brilliance of a diamond this sexually-charged and highly explicit novel contains many dark secrets.

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Review:

‘I was transfixed, gulping it down, desperate to… ind out how the spiralling misery of…characters would be resolved.’ Guardian

‘This is a dark and brooding novel an examination of one man’s mid-life crisis. Particularly impressive is Harrison’s ability to write about sex in a way that is explicit and revealing but never prurient.’ Mail on Sunday

‘Rendered in a prose so lapidary, with the lovely surface bloom of some rare and exquisite work of art. Gracefully wayward mixture of sex and grief.’ Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph

‘In Harrison’s intense and sometimes unbearably moving novel, the fallen masonry of history reassembles itself. Compelling and genuinely disturbing.’ The Times

‘A marvelous writer, one of the best at work today. She is unflinching, however difficult her material. Her characters are complex, her dialogue razor-sharp and her range – moral, historical and geographical – is unparalleled. Few authors of serious literary fiction are so daring.’ Daily Telegraph ‘Novel of the Week’

‘Harrison’s precise control over the story and her delivery of one central and splendidly lubricious sex scene make “Envy” an engrossing read. Harrison’s complex tale of damaged personal interactions invites serious reflection.’ Time Out

From the Author:

Sarah O'Reilly meets Kathryn Harrison

Critics have argued that The Kiss, an account of your four-year affair with
your father, provides the perspective from which all your other books must
be read. Would you have been a writer, do you think, if your early life had
worked out differently?
I think that there were a number of roads leading out of the childhood that
I had. I'm not someone who ever planned to be a writer, and I think I could
as easily have ended up in a mental institution. But certainly my
experiences left me with questions that I needed to answer.
After my mother died and after I had disentangled myself from my father, I
had to account for my life and the direction it had taken. Certainly, I
wasn't in a place I'd expected to be in from the vantage of being 13 or 14;
my life had gone terribly awry and I needed to figure out how and why, and
who I was. Most people would have had another apparatus for discovering
that. For me, the only way I could understand anything was to write about
it; it was my means, to use a loathsome word, of processing things. So my
first three novels, directly or indirectly, were very much about my
formative experiences.
But when I wrote The Kiss, a work of nonfiction, I think it was freeing to
a certain extent. It allowed me to move beyond that territory in terms of
my writing. That's not to say that there aren't aspects of my life and
myself in the fiction I write now - it's just that it's not as
claustrophobic as it once was.

You're known for exploring challenging subjects in your work. Is there
anything that you wouldn't write about?
Something that bored me. But I don't draw the line anywhere else. I am
completely willing to lay open, observe and discuss any aspect of myself -
people would say far too willing! I would not do the same to my children or
my husband or my friends because I have a relationship with those people
that I want to honour, and a sense that certain things are sacred. It's
just that mostly I'm not that thing.

You evoke strong critical reactions. Do you enjoy being provocative in your
work?
I think that I am, for better and for worse, someone who resents rules. I
generally play by them, but you only have to tell me that I have to do
something one way for me to want to do it the other. Generally speaking
that's not a very useful trait, except on the page. At the time of The
Kiss's publication, people were saying that books were invisible, that they
didn't matter, so for me there was a kind of gratification in causing a
fight. People would say to me, `I got into a huge argument with my
co-workers and it's all your fault!' And I would think, that's fantastic!
Having that kind of potency was reinforcing.
I have no interest in writing nice little books that people will feel
tepidly positive about. I would much rather write a book that some people
loved and other people hated. There has to be some kind of transaction
between you and the reader and I'd prefer to leave people agitated and
unhappy than unmoved: at least it means I've somehow gotten under their
skin. Why write if you can't do that?

Envy is the second of your novels to feature a male protagonist, the first
being The Seal Wife. Why did you decide to return to writing from a male
standpoint in Envy?
The Seal Wife showed me that writing as a man could be so much more
satisfying than anticipated. But it was only afterwards that I realized
that this satisfaction derived from the fact that writing from the position
of the romantically or erotically frustrated man who's always in pursuit of
a woman who torments him was really a means of recording and reworking my
own childhood experiences with my mother. I did feel passionately
possessive of her, but she was never mine; I did want to penetrate her, not
sexually, but I wanted to be inside her, to know her, to break through
whatever it was that held me from her. All these are very male desires. So
being a man in my fiction allows me to work through those feelings again.
It's not a pleasant place to be, but it's familiar!

So you're naturally an observer?
Yes. I really do stare at people. The subway is better than being at the
zoo. I find people so peculiar and fascinating. I suppose I eavesdrop on
people too. And I routinely and expectantly look in other peoples' medicine
cabinets when invited to dinner parties. I mean, how could you not? Don't
you want to know what's in there?

Can you imagine doing anything else?
I've worked alone at home so long I don't think I'd know how to get dressed
in the morning and go out to work! At the beginning of my career I would
have said that writing was torture, or, as Flannery O'Connor said,
memorably, that she liked to have written, rather than liked writing. But
now, at this point in my life, my career, I do love what I do. I like
Monday better than Friday. It strikes me as an impossible stroke of good
fortune that I get to make a living doing the thing I love.

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Harrison, Kathryn
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