Part of the clever pain of The Small Hours is watching Harriet ask plainly honest questions, offer love and seek answers only to have her wholesomeness met with irritation, contempt and aversion by those who are just as damaged yet far more defensive than she is. As I read the novel I kept thinking, Harriet thinks of herself as huge and desperate and clumsy. I bet, if I were to meet her, she would be the opposite. Harriet’s brother, an uptight tightwad, has projected his own trauma onto her; everything she does riles him, because he is riled by his own past, of which she is a reminder. Because he never shows his emotions, when she shows a tiny bit of hers they seem elephantine by comparison.
Finally, every sentence of this novel is at once a bitingly witty summation and a deadpan indictment of the brutality of life. If I quoted the sharpest bits I’d wind up reproducing the whole thing. I haven’t, deliberately. Go and buy it.
The Small Hours by Susie Boyt is published by Virago but why don't you go straight to Amazon instead?