Josephine Hart – Damage

I had never heard of this novel until I read about it on dovegreyreader’s blog here. She made it sound great so I added it to my little notebook of books to look out for. A week later I ran across a second-hand copy and immediately snatched it up. This never happens to me! Anyway, I did not wait too long with reading it (which does happen often with books I buy…). And it was as great as I had hoped it would be. I have thought a lot about the book since.

I do not want to give anything away of the plot, so in one paragraph, this is the premise. A middle-aged GP turned politician is introduced to his son Martyn’s fiancee Anna and begins an affair with her. Until now, his life has been very respectable and passion-less. Happily married to Ingrid, two grown children (Martyn and Sally), he is regarded by his colleagues and family members as the personification of solid reliability. The relationship with Anna is very unconventional and he soon finds that all he really cares about is when he can be with her again, as he explains in this rather ruthless way

my vision extended only to Anna. What had, as she said, been a life of singular blindness, now necessitated the ruthless obliteration from my vision of Martyn, Ingrid and Sally. They seemed but shadows.
Martyn’s reality had been most brutally stamped out. He was a figure in a canvas, over which another had been painted.

I do not want to say any more about what happens, you really need to find out for yourself. You will find it impossible to put this down, I promise you.

One of the questions I found myself wondering about after I had read this was: whose story is this? The first person narrator, our unnamed middle-aged politician, gives the impression that it is his story. But, one could also argue that it may just as well be regarded to be Anna’s story as we gradually find out what makes her submit to the affair. It made me wonder what the novel had been like if it had been told from her perspective. It would have been very different for sure.

What struck me in the end was that the tragic events that I will not talk about have made it possible for Anna to start a new, an ordinary, life. While at the same time, our unnamed male narrator shows us that clearly, his life is over. Great stuff indeed. ‘Damage’ by Josephine Hart was a great read for me. I highly recommend it.

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