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Tuesday 17 May 2016

‘While My Eyes Were Closed’ by Linda Green

Published by Quercus,
5 May 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-78429-281-2

Picture the scene: a mother and her small child are playing hide and seek in a park. The child falls, the mother dusts off her bruised hands and the game continues. The child runs off to hide, and while the mother counts to a hundred with her eyes closed, her phone rings. It’s a work call, so she can’t ignore it, and when it ends, the child is nowhere to be found.

Or an outsider’s view of the same scene might be this: the child takes a tumble, and the mother pays cursory attention, then turns away to answer her phone, leaving the child to run off unattended. Perhaps the outsider isn’t a stranger, but someone the child knows slightly, and is happy to go off with, to have the bruised hands properly tended; her mother ignored them, after all. And perhaps the outsider has old-fashioned views on child-rearing, and because of the phone call and the scant attention to the bruises, thinks the child is being neglected.

This is the premise behind this taut family-based psychological thriller. The child, Ella, is safe, albeit not entirely happy about being separated from her family; her mother, meanwhile, is frantic. The police and the press are involved, and a well-oiled machine is set in motion to search for Ella – who, did they but know, is only yards from where she was first missed. 

It’s become a cliché to claim that any piece of fiction is about the characters, but in this case that’s not only true but necessary. The whole point here is the way everyone reacts and behaves:  Ella’s family, who are beside themselves with worry; her well-meaning but slightly disturbed abductor, herself damaged by recent blows dealt by life; the police and the press, who only have past experience and well-worn routines to rely on; and of course Ella herself, who is absolutely the star of her own story. Each of three first-person narrators has a distinct voice, and every single person rings true, clear and rounded. Scratch them and they bleed becomes far more than a platitude.

A few slightly threadbare tropes creep into the narrative: the sex offender who lives near the park, the tabloid press’s assumption that a family member is to blame, tragedy lurking in the background. But they’re only there because their existence is all too possible; they certainly don’t lessen the teeth-gritting tension. The author gets right under the skin of Ella’s parents, and though the reader is never quite invited to empathize with  the abductor, a certain amount of sympathy for her personal troubles is aroused.

Every mother’s nightmare is here evoked in all its horror and strain; Green doesn’t flinch from  letting her characters imagine the worst possible scenarios and outcomes. It’s a book you’ll want to read at one sitting, if only to reassure yourself.
Reviewer:Lynne Patrick

Linda Green was born in North London in 1970 and brought up in Hertfordshire At  sixteen she embarked on 'A' levels and a journalism course at De Havilland College, Hertfordshire. She
joined my local newspaper, the Enfield Gazette, as a trainee reporter at eighteen. During a ten year career in regional journalism She worked as a reporter on the Birmingham Daily News, news editor on the Birmingham Metro News and Chief Feature Writer on the Coventry Evening Telegraph, winning Highly Commended in the Feature Writer of the Year category of the 1997 Press Gazette Regional Press Awards. Although she loved working on regional newspapers by 1998 her features were getting too long and the urge to write a novel had become too great so she left her staff job to write her first novel and work as a freelance journalist. She has written for The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday, The Times Educational Supplement, The Big Issue, Wanderlust and Community Care Magazine. She found the writing and working from home a very solitary process so also worked as co-ordinator of the Birmingham Bureau of Children's Express (a national charity which ran a learning through journalism programme for young people) and taught journalism to schoolchildren for the National Academy of Writing. After she moved north in 2001 she qualified as an adult education tutor and taught creative writing classes to students aged between 18 and 82 for the Workers Educational Association across Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

After more than a hundred rejections from agents for her first novel she  finally got an agent but still couldn't get a publisher. She started work on my second novel I Did A Bad Thing in 2003 a new agent in 2005 and finally obtained a two-book deal with Headline Review in 2006. Massive sigh of relief! After six years with Headline She left to join Quercus in 2011. Her current novel While My Eyes Were Closed was published in ebook in January 2016 and paperback in May 2016.
Linda Green  lives  in a village near Halifax , West Yorkshire. She is married to Ian Hodgson, a sports photographer for a national newspaper.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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