x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

By Battersea Bridge: Thirty-something wallows in mediocrity

Janet Davey¿s By Battersea Bridge follows the life of a thirty-something singleton drifting from one unfulfilled career choice to another.

By Battersea Bridge
Janet Davey
Chatto & Windus
By Battersea Bridge Janet Davey Chatto & Windus Dh85

On the surface, By Battersea Bridge promises little. The protagonist, Anita Mostyn, sees herself as the neglected youngest child of the Mostyn clan. Her mother, Veronica, dotes on her two older and more successful brothers, leaving Anita - or "Mossy" as she resigns herself to being dubbed by well-meaning acquaintances - to wallow in the usual rivers of grown-up angst.

However, 2002 Orange Prize winner Janet Davey's prose dives deeper than that. Her stream-of-consciousness style trails Anita through life as a thirtysomething singleton drifting from one unfulfilling career choice to another. But between flashbacks to her past, Davey picks apart her tension-fraught relationships with her mother, her late brother Mark, the beguiling (and married) Nick Halsey, and her hopeless admirer Laurence Beament.

Davey's writing is far from flamboyant. Instead, a calmness prevails over the inner chaos of Anita's psyche, which is dissected with a steady voice. Each brief scene illuminates the author's observances of social class and expectations of propriety, even as little appears to stir beneath the surface of the Mostyn's carefully-appointed facade.