Getting Colder

Amanda Coe’s Getting Colder is an intensely involving and engaging novel, intriguing its readers through producing a state of questioning that can only be resolved through the understanding of Coe’s voiceless narrator.

Coe’s second and latest book looks at the aftermath of unanswered questions after a mother dies years after leaving her children for a one-hit wonder playwright. The textured novel – broken up with letters, memories and play extracts from when Sarah was alive – brings the writing to life. Through this, Coe gives us a glimpse of how their mothers’ death shapes Louise’s and Nigel’s reactions to life around them. Now grown up, Louise attempts to connect with her dead mother, relying on a mediator over the phone, while Nigel attempts to manipulate those around him in order to secure himself a second home. The abandonment of Louise and Nigel all those years ago also pushed these two siblings apart, and their contrasting attitudes to death provide a true insight into family relations, showing just how delicate they really are.

Delving into the lives of three almost-estranged family members’ grief, readers will also find themselves filled with questions about the erotic love between Sarah and Patrick, and how this lead to the severing of maternal ties. These questions though, I must warn you, are left to the imagination. There is no satisfying resolution to conclude the story, and the reader is left, along with the characters, fantasising and even obsessing over these questions. The one voice we never hear is the mysterious Sarah, who alone knows her motivations in choosing to leave her children at ten and thirteen, and their father. This unheard voice is as crucial to the novel’s plot as the voices we do hear.

Highlighting that all-too realistic tension within family relationships, Coe does what all good writers should do: force the questioning of our own interactions with our surrounding world.

Virago (2015)

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