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Amber Paulen

A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth

Jenn Ashworth

A Kind of Intimacy

13 September 2011


About four years ago I discovered Jenn Ashworth’s blog and began reading it whenever I remembered to. I was at once attracted to her witty voice and would continue to read it if it still existed. So it was exciting when Ashworth’s first novel was dropped on my lap, accompanied by a DVD when she appeared on the BBC’s Culture Show. The friend who dropped these items met Ashworth from behind a BBC camera and said that she was very kind and friendly.

I am also fascinated with Jenn Ashworth because she is younger than me and has become a success as a writer in as much as a writer could hope for. The Culture Show’s episode (which I hope to write about later this week) was about the twelve best new novelists in the UK: A Kind of Intimacy made the list.

A Kind of Intimacy is about and narrated by Annie, a youngish, obese woman. Because I had read Ashworth’s blog, I was prepped for the unreliable narrator and approached the book with some expectations, pleasantly fulfilled. This novel is an intimate portrait of a woman on the outskirts of society who will never fit in; who nonetheless has a charming impervious confidence, convinced that she is fitting in.

At the start of the novel, Annie moves into a new house, a new neighborhood, ready and hopeful to start her new life. But after each interaction with her new neighbors, and especially the couple next door, it becomes quickly apparent that Annie has few social skills and the ones she does have, shoot off in another direction. Surprisingly, her mishaps are never annoying or unbelievable (a tricky balance for a writer to strike).

Annie had a hairy, unfulfilling past that she is determined to keep hidden, even from herself. The reader is in a similar situation as Annie’s neighbors, given glimpses of this past that more and more entwines itself with her present, despite her desperate struggles against just that.

Oh no! That was for the old days. My future held something altogether more substantial than brief connections in otherwise empty afternoons.

At times I was reminded of Madame Bovary’s penchant for romance novels, as Annie has an obsession with self-help books. And as Madame Bovary is thoroughly French, I couldn’t help thinking that A Kind of Intimacy is thoroughly English (cheese and pickled onion hedgehog?). Annie is so concerned with a prim politeness and cleanliness despite the fact that her very person revolts against it, for example: eating out of tins above the trash so that when she is finished, she can just drop the dirty thing in.

I sped through this novel, mostly on a bus heading toward a beach on Italy’s east coast. Or, more likely, I was compelled forward through it. Now I’m waiting for Jenn Ashworth’s second novel, Cold Light, to land on my lap.



Commentary for A Kind of Intimacy


1 On Tuesday 13 September 2011 kimberly wrote:

i bet i would like this book : ) great review!

2 On Tuesday 13 September 2011 Amber wrote:

I think you would. I’ll bring you a copy in Belgium!!


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