Twice The Speed Of Dark by Lulu Allison was published by Unbound on 24th November, and it’s taken me far too long to get round to reading the copy provided by the author: Lulu was my guest on Being Anne, sharing her desert island books, back in December as part of her blog tour. I loved this book’s cover and its description – and the passion of the author for her work made this a book I just had to read.
A mother and daughter circle each other, bound by love, separated by fatal violence.
Dismayed by the indifference she sees in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, trying to understand the real impact of their deaths.
Meanwhile Anna’s daughter, killed by a violent boyfriend, tells her own story from the perplexing realms of death, reclaiming herself from the brutality.
Anna’s life is stifled by heartache; it is only through these acts of love for strangers that she allows herself an emotional connection to the world.
Can Anna free herself from the bondage of grief and find a connection to her daughter once more?
From reviews I’d read around publication time, I didn’t expect this book to be an easy read. And for a whole range of reasons, both style and subject matter, it really wasn’t. But what I hadn’t been prepared for was the exquisite beauty of the writing. I’ll admit that for the first few pages I really thought it might not be for me – I like my reading to be fairly straight-forward with a clear story arc and a pace to the narrative, and I felt I might struggle. But once I’d settled and felt more comfortable, the writing entirely won me over. There’s a poetry throughout – real beauty, every word carefully chosen, every small moment captured in detail, perfectly described with the eye of an artist, the whole infused with an emotional depth I found quite stunning. As a portrait of grief that you feel with your heart, this book is an absolute triumph – a book to read slowly, to linger over the meaning, to turn back the pages and reread passages that have caught your imagination.
This isn’t a book that everyone will love, and you might not like it at all if you don’t like a deep and minute exploration of thoughts and feelings, some exceptionally painful. But this book is a great deal more than an examination of misery. There were elements of the story telling I very much enjoyed. The two viewpoints – the grieving mother, and the voice of her dead daughter, with the slow reveal of the events that led up to her death, a moving story of jealousy, obsession and domestic violence – are superbly handled, and the approach highly original. I loved Anna’s acts of love for strangers, the cataloguing of lives lost and recorded only as numbers in small newspaper columns – and her notebook with the cover the colour of bluebells. Anna’s pain is something you really feel – the pivotal encounter at the book’s centre is unforgettable, visceral in its impact. And then there’s her escape and her attempts to find some freedom and connection – joy and agony, mixed together in the moments, and her encounters with others totally engrossing and very moving.
I’m so glad I read this book – an unforgettable experience, and a book I’ll continue to think about in those quiet moments. Just wonderful.
About the author
Lulu Allison has spent most of her life as a visual artist. She attended Central St Martin’s School of Art then spent a number of years travelling and living abroad. Amongst the bar-tending and cleaning jobs, highlights of these years include: in New Zealand, playing drums for King Loser and bass for Dimmer. In Germany, making spectacle hinges in a small factory and nearly designing the new Smurfs. In Amsterdam painting a landmark mural on a four storey squat. In Fiji and California, teaching scuba diving.
After a decade of wandering, she returned to the UK, where she had two children and focused on art. She completed a fine art MA and exhibited her lens-based work and site-specific installations in group and solo shows. In 2013 what began as an art project took her into writing and she unexpectedly discovered what she should have been doing all along.
Twice the Speed of Dark is her first book. She is currently writing a second, provisionally titled Delta Bones.