Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly

by Amy Pirt

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Are you living in the moment?

Me neither. I’m trying to. Really, I am. Periodically, throughout the day, I stop what I’m doing and say to myself, This is it. This moment is all you have. Enjoy it. Feel it. Embrace the Now.

You know the drill: house, work, 2.4 children. Barely enough time to eat, let alone romance your husband or practise mindfulness. So when your daughter’s teacher phones to tell you she’s in A & E, you don’t think twice about making the trip to France alone. After all, there is your other daughter to look after, the hotel to run, your mother in law to entertain. And look, here is your friend from university, ready to step in and take your place in your absence. Hold the fort, I mean. Of course I mean hold the fort.

For, barely two weeks later, the overworked and undersexed Natty returns from France, with her seriously ill daughter, to find that her husband Sean has shacked up with her so-called friend, Eve, who is evidently oversexed. So much for the sisterhood.

Soon, however, we realise that Eve is not the superwoman, domestic/sex goddess she purports to be. Her crimes, despite the obvious sin of husband stealing, range from the casually cruel (trashing Natty’s make-up) to injuring herself, making it look like GBH, with Natty the perpetrator. Natty struggles to convince the police, and even her own family, just how psychotic Eve is. But then an anonymous note arrives, telling her that Eve has wrecked homes before. Is everyone else convinced by this evidence? And can Eve be stopped before it’s too late?

Daly writes as grippingly as she did in her début, Just What Kind of Mother Are You?. I especially enjoyed her further exploration of today’s harried mothers in the form of Natty, and thought that her characterisation of überbitch Eve was spot on.

What I love perhaps the most about Daly’s writing is that it is set firmly in the luscious landscapes of her home, the Lake District, contrary to the idea that all modern novels are set in North London. I do hope she continues in this fashion.

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