Esther is a pregnant amputee, estranged from her father who caused the accident in which she lost her leg. She and her husband, Dan, are journeying by car to their new home, an abandoned station called Rosghill in the Scottish Highlands.
Spanning the course of a week, Bee Lewis s gothic fantasia follows Esther as her marriage, life and body begin to dramatically change. By day, she is isolated physically and mentally within her marriage and new environment. By night, she explores a forbidding forest, pursued by a shadowy figure.
Symbolism, dreams and violence abound in this spellbinding unsnaring of a soul.
Liminal is the debut novel from Bee Lewis and it’s one that defies easy categorisation. It’s partly a domestic thriller which looks at the flawed relationship between Esther and Dan, trying to make a go of their marriage in the Scottish Highlands, but it also contains elements of an almost supernatural nature as Esther experiences vivid dreams that begin to spill over into her waking life.
The novel opens with the final stage of Esther and Dan’s journey to their newly purchased property in the Scottish Highlands – a property that they will turn into a home as well as a writer’s retreat / B&B. While this should be an exciting time for them – a fresh start, a new challenge – it’s clear from the beginning that they have issues and that things are not as smooth as they could be. Dan comes across as controlling and condescending, while Esther has doubts about their marriage and its future – the only glue that binds them is Esther’s pregnancy. Over the course of the week following their move, the reader begins to understand their history and why their relationship is so fraught, and Esther wavers between making a go of things – there are still moment of warmth between them – and the desire for a clean break.
Arriving at Rosghill, Esther and Dan are met by their neighbour, Mike, an enigmatic character who quickly proves himself indispensable by providing food, fuel, and general support in making the station more habitable. While Dan – taciturn by nature – quickly forms a friendship with him, Esther has some concerns. He is always around, and perfectly happy to let himself in, and there’s something about him that seems a little familiar… Mike soon becomes another source of friction between Esther and Dan, despite the fact that he seems to be little more than a particularly helpful – if perhaps a slightly intrusive – neighbour.
While the domestic element plays out during the day, at night Esther’s dreams become increasingly vivid and strange as she is pursued through the forest by a shadowy figure referred to as the hunter. I enjoyed these passages, which mirror the daytime narrative beautifully. Esther’s flight from the hunter who is getting ever closer to me indicates that events are coming to a head, and as we learn more about Dan’s behaviour – past and present – it becomes increasingly apparent that Esther has some difficult decisions to make about how to proceed. I think that there is also an element of Esther becoming stronger in her dreams as the week progresses, which in turn improves her confidence in her waking life. I suspect that there may be more to interpret from the dream sequences which are rich in imagery, but that was my take and I like the way in which her dreams parallel to her daytime activities.
Liminal is a relatively short novel that is gripping throughout. There is a feeling of otherness throughout the narrative as Esther’s dreams begin to seep into the day, and it also contains elements of a thriller that will have you questioning the behaviour and motives of the three characters. I’ve never read anything quite like it and highly recommended it for those who don’t mind a little supernatural edge to their fiction.
Liminal is published by Salt and is available now.