When I Close My Eyes by Jemma Wayne – a slow burning thriller of relationships, secrets and many layers

When I Close My Eyes by Jemma Wayne

This novel is many things, a thriller, a slow building mystery novel, a story of love but not romance, a collection of revelations that had me turning the pages. Narrated by Lilith, who goes by various names throughout, it spans two continents, a lot of trauma, and the power of imagination in various guises. This is a novel that is a slow burner, a book which slips into the mind. I found that it becomes increasingly absorbing, as the story of a life is revealed, a life with a dimension which gradually becomes evident. There is an account of an entwining with another person, not just physically but mentally, and the effects of a close relationship that has lasted since childhood. The writing is alternately taut, revealing, and almost lyrical in the way it describes evenings on a beautiful beach, days spent in comfortable circumstances. It makes reference to rituals of safety, mental health issues, and reactions that have their own logic. It is well researched and deeply felt, yet also picturesque and lively without pause. This is the sort of novel which is not easy to describe, but which has real power. I found it a difficult to put down, relatable novel, and was pleased to have had the opportunity to read and review it. 

Lilith lives in Los Angeles, California, in a palatial house very different from the house in which she grew up back in England. She has made her name, and her fortune, as the creator and more of a successful television series “Moles”, building on her previous successes in creating characters and settings that caught the imagination of the public and critics alike. The sort of person who makes things happen, she is constantly noting things about the people around her, unconscious mannerisms, telling aspects of their circumstances. One of the rich sources of inspiration is Madge, a homeless woman with a secret past and a memorable way with words herself. Lilith thinks back, while enjoying her daily run, of people who are important to her, like Jade, her friend from university, keeper of secrets and practical help, regular visitor from a less glamorous existence in Britain. Of Patrick, with whom she enjoys a carefully defined relationship, physical, yet never totally committed at night. Cassius. Glimpsed at an airport as a child, fated to become close, another keeper of secrets, yet also a source of so many emotions. Perhaps knowing more about her than her parents, yet now distant, for many years invisible, unconnected. He dominates her past like no one else. He knows truths that no one else has guessed at, even though they have witnessed the outcomes of fears.

I found that this book became gently enthralling, haunting, and demanding attention. It is not an easy read, though the relationships Lilith has are brilliantly written, and it is not meant to be a comfort read. The challenges that Lilith faces seem real, even though her lifestyle is somehow dreamlike, as she acknowledges herself in her realisation of the oddness of how characters which began in her imagination take on their own life when captured by the character. The plot flows apparently effortlessly, the style is sophisticated, and this is a novel which certainly demands the reader’s attention, and certainly deserves to on its many merits.