The Tuesday Book
FLY IN THE OINTMENT By Anne Fine BANTAM, Pounds 16.99 Order for Pounds 15.29 (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897
A sharp sense of danger always crackles in the background whenever Anne Fine writes for adults. The more or less settled resolutions that she reserves for her children's fiction can no longer be guaranteed, while the questions she asks often become increasingly uncomfortable. Her latest novel ends with its narrator inviting readers to sympathise with her decision to take another person's life.
Divorced from her non-event husband, and enjoying the single life, Lois Henderson has been sucked back into family responsibilities after her druggie son dies, leaving his selfish and slatternly partner, Janie Gay, with a baby, Larry, for whom she has no time. Not a sympathetic character, Lois indulges herself with frequent, sharp-tongued diatribes against Janie Gay and the feckless way of life she comes to stand for. Any politician going public with a quarter as much about the iniquities of the undeserving poor would be in deep trouble, but novelists still just about have the power to say the generally unsayable.
Even though Janie Gay was once herself a neglected child, this puts no brake on the furious disapproval aroused in these pages by a single mother so unable, or, in Lois's eyes, unwilling to cope. …