April 12, 2010 6:28 am

The Widow’s Tale

Book cover of 'The Widow’s Tale' by Mick Jackson

The Widow’s Tale
By Mick Jackson
Faber £12.99, 246 pages
FT Bookshop price: £10.39

After her husband’s death, Mick Jackson’s nameless narrator flees London to take refuge in a Norfolk cottage. There she proceeds to reflect on her 40-year marriage and her loss, while drowning her sorrows and making acidic observations about what passes for rural life. Slowly, however, it emerges that her grief is less pure, and her destination less random, than first appears, while her muddied emotions threaten to drive her to a nervous breakdown.

Like grief itself, The Widow’s Tale refuses to taper to a clear resolution. Its heroine’s wayward pilgrimage – a sort of secular version of the Stations of the Cross, or so it seems to her – is intermittently moving, her sharp-tongued assault on human folly often amusing.

In the end, though, it feels as if this is a writer’s commonplace book moonlighting as a novel. For all its aphoristic tartness – which is reminiscent in places of Simon Gray’s diaries – it never entirely convinces as fiction.

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