LONDON (Reuters) - “What if the book you were reading was about you?” This is the question posed in Renee Knight’s “Disclaimer”, a new thriller in the ‘suburban noir’genre.
Catherine, a middle-aged television documentary maker, finds herself the central character in a book that has appeared in her home. It tells a secret she thought nobody knew.
From there Knight takes us with Catherine as her settled and apparently happy life unravels before her, until she is forced to confront a past she wants to bury.
The story twists and turns, misdirecting us, but ultimately never leaving the possible to become fanciful. We, like the other characters, are forced to examine our prejudices and assumptions.
Knight is a former BBC documentary maker and has written scripts for the BBC and Channel 4. She talked to Reuters about her book.
Q: Where did the idea come from?
A: I’d written a previous novel. There were chunks in that about a real event that took place in my adolescence with a friend of mine. I sent it off to my agent, then thought – what if it does get published? That would be such a betrayal. How terrible if you read something and had no idea it would be about you?
Q: Why do you think there’s been such a rise in ‘suburban noir’ recently?
A: I don’t know, I think its always been there. To have an out-and-out thriller with a female at its heart is what’s different. The domestic sphere is very familiar; we want to read about women who feel more real, women that we can identify with.
Q: Do we all fear that it wouldn’t take much for us to unravel?
A: Yes, your home is your ultimate place of safety – or should be. There is an expectation that home is perfect, but it never is. We all have things that are wrong. There’s a moment that Catherine escapes from home to work, which suddenly doesn’t feel so safe either – as a writer, you take away the things that feel most secure.
Q: Is there a deeper message – something more than ‘who is telling the truth here?’
A: Can you ever really know everything about anybody? It’s playing with how quick we are to judge others. Don’t assume you know who that person is: you may not.
Q: What prejudices are you using here?
A: People feel they have a right to know things, so there is a fury that we haven’t been told. The husband feels he has a right to know. Seeing his wife in that particular way, and knowing nothing about it, overwhelms him and alters his judgment. If you keep a secret for long enough, keeping the secret becomes bigger than the secret itself.
Q: Have you read any books that inspired you to write this one?
A: “The Stranger” by Sarah Waters -- her character Rita who is a very creepy and controlled narrator. It was certainly in my head, that atmosphere, being first person and slightly claustrophobic.
Editing by Michael Roddy/Jeremy Gaunt