I was very taken with Nightshift’s premise of an obsessive relationship between two women set against a backdrop of nocturnal London when I spotted it on Twitter and put up my hand for a proof. Kiare Ladner’s debut follows Meggie’s attempt to exorcise Sabine’s influence, two decades after they last saw each other. Their toxic friendship lasted no more than eighteen months but still casts a very dark shadow.
In the strange energy of these insomniac nights, I have begun to write as consolation. To make a story that will put an end to reliving flash fragments, to remembering only the most troubling details
Meggie is a conventional young woman, settled into a humdrum job, spending much of her time with her boyfriend, but she’s long yearned to be a braver, warmer, more original version of herself. When the new member of her team sits opposite her at work, she’s first intrigued then swiftly in the grips of a gigantic crush. Sabine is stylish and quickly popular, grabbing life by the lapels in the way that Meggie longs to do. When she abruptly disappears, Meggie tracks her down to another branch of their firm where she’s working the nightshift and sets about getting a transfer using her studies as an excuse. The staff of the nightshift are very different: a bunch of disparate misfits who take care of each other, heading off to the pub after their shift ends for an early morning drink. Meggie works hard to become Sabine’s friend, constantly on the brink of taking their relationship further, encouraged by Sabine’s drunken kisses, always in front of an audience. As Meggie becomes increasingly nocturnal her behaviour becomes wilder until one night, things take a dangerous turn and Sabine slips away.
It wasn’t just about working with Sabine; it was about doing what she had done. Inverting the notion of living by day seemed subversive. She’s slipped stream, and invited me to do the same
As regular readers will know, I’ve a healthy scepticism for hype but Ladner’s tale of one woman’s seduction by another into an entirely different way of life lived up to that promising tweet. She narrates her novel through Meggie, capturing her unravelling through sleep deprivation to a stage where an already impaired judgement results in risky, downright destructive behaviour. The madness of extreme obsession, an obsession so intense Meggie wants to become Sabine, is uncomfortably well done as is Sabine’s shapeshifting personality. The disorienting effects and camaraderie of the nightshift, which attracts eccentrics already outside of mainstream society, is vividly conveyed. It’s a riveting novel, neatly executed with a smartly fitting ending. I may have to dust off that old cliché ‘unputdownable’ for this one. Very much looking forward to reading what Ladner comes up with next.
Picador: London 9781529010381 256 pages Hardback