Sarah Perry has written a beautiful novel about waiting for things to happen in which she increases tension page by page.
In After Me six people have chosen to live together in a dilapidated house somewhere on the coast. A seventh guest is expected. When his car breaks down main character John asks for help at the house and is taken for the guest (whose name turns out to be Jon). Troubled by the heat and a headache John cannot resist his welcome and decides to stay at the house. In the next week he gets to know the six and finds out why they are staying there. John never fully understands why he stays, he seems to be overtaken by what is happening to him. In a diary he writes down what he finds out and tries to figure out why he is responding in an unusual way. At first I thought I was headed for horror, because Perry plays with all the elements that belong to this genre. Soon it becomes apparent however that though not all is as it seems and all is definitely not well, After Me is foremost a psychological novel in which relations and expectations are the main components. The heatwave, the threat of a possible flood caused by a flaw in a water reservoir, the psychology of the seven protagonists, Johns diary which refers to a disaster, they all combine to make After Me a novel that urges you to read on in order to find out what will happen. At the end all the protagonists are left distraught.
The fact that while reading my head was filled with images of typical remote British houses and countryside and I could easily imagine it being the next Original British Drama on the BBC – thereby determining my expectations – made the read even more enjoyable. I don’t know whether Perry intended it to or whether it was the effect of having watched British series for many years, for me it worked.