Notice by Heather Lewis

What I learned from… ‘Notice’ by Heather Lewis

Notice by Heather LewisAbout the book

Her name is not Nina, but that’s the name she uses sometimes. At her local bar, in the carpark with her tricks, when she needs to score.

She doesn’t really need the money. But it lays bare the truth of each loveless transaction. Still living at home, each chance encounter is a route to escape the tedium of her sheltered, suburban existence. One day a man takes her home to meet his beautiful, unhappy wife, Ingrid. She knows she should leave, but instead becomes drawn ever deeper into their games, her suspicions of the terrible secrets they keep mounting with each visit. Caught in a web of fear, intrigue and desire, she will end up in more trouble than she ever bargained for.

What I learned

This book came with a warning – both from other readers, and from the final two words of Melissa Febos’s introduction: brace yourself.

Notice is the powerful first-person account of ‘Nina’, who relates her story with cool detachment, even when faced with horrific physical and sexual violence, and manipulation by those supposed to be helping her.

To others in the book, Nina is little more than an object, and she seems to view herself in the same way. She’s a body moving through a series of actions. The writing is spare and pared back to its essentials, which only makes the very rare psychological insights by Nina more devastating. The reader gets to see what’s happening to her, even when she doesn’t seem fully cognisant of it herself.

The book is full of sex, but I think most people would struggle to find anything remotely ‘sexy’ in it. Nina describes what happens to her in practical terms, giving the merest information so the reader understands how brutally and inhumanely she’s being treated, and how little she seems to care. But therein lies the point – Nina is so deadened to what’s happening to her that it barely registers. She’s anaesthetised herself to almost everything, and is just following a path to her own self-destruction.

Notice is a masterclass in narration. Nina is an unreliable narrator, but in the sense that she is unreliable to herself, unable to fully grasp what is happening to her and where it might lead.

The title is Notice: we notice what’s happening to Nina when she doesn’t herself, and it serves as a chilling, heartbreaking warning notice.

More about this book

First published in 2004 by Serpent’s Tail

Notice at Serpent’s Tail

Notice at

About ‘What I learned…’

I read anything and everything and think there’s writing inspiration to take from from books of every genre.

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