The Neighbour was one of this year’s winners in the Viva La Novella competition run by Seizure. The competition had four experienced and talented editors chose a manuscript from among a pool of 150 hopefuls and The Neighbour is an end result of that process. Blurbed as an astute psychological drama set in contemporary suburbia, The Neighbour, struck me as a perfect fit in terms of tone, content and pacing for the novella form.
It’s a prime example of what can be achieved when an author takes full advantage of the tight focus the short form brings and the freedom it gives the author to make best use of the English language. Proudfoot is a published poet and it shows in the careful attention to language in The Neighbour. It’s a text, that while not taxing, still demands that you notice its words, the vivid imagery that it paints for you and the weight of the world it draws you into.
The Neighbour lulled me first with the normality of life in Australian suburbia and despite the fact that the plot is sketched out on the back cover, still managed to blindside me with the inciting moment. Perhaps it was denial though; that I didn’t want to think that Proudfoot would do what she did. Once I was over that initial shock (one that had me put the book down for a moment), I was drawn back in as she slowly began unravelling personalities, mysteries and histories.
It was a tense journey that kept me close, half wanting to know the answers to all my questions and half wanting to tear my attention away from the breakdown of relationships and the protagonist's faltering grip on reality.
I guessed successfully at some of the mysteries early in the novella but looking back I wonder if I didn’t get what was going on just when Proudfoot wanted me to, the mystery providing impetus and tension, to keep me moving through Luke’s transformation.
The ending was a surprise that I didn’t see coming and left me with the feeling that I had been thoroughly at the mercy of the author’s skill. I hope this is only the beginning for Proudfoot.
This book was provided by the publisher
This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014. Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.