Review: Bright Burning Things: Portrayal of addiction strikes a delicate balance

Lisa Harding’s new novel, Bright Burning Things, is a challenging yet cautiously optimistic exploration of motherhood and addiction, and one which I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing for the Irish Independent back in March.

The novel, in fact, has the feel of a monologue, held together by Sonya’s mesmerising voice, a glorious mix of barely-held-together sanity and unbridled honesty. “My imp is waving, beckoning me into the shimmering water,” she tells us at the beginning. “Hello Elation, you spangly bitch.’” Sonya is elegantly set up as an unreliable narrator from the start. She resents her father for failing to keep in touch with Tommy — and has communicated this to us over a 70-page span — but the lie slips almost as soon as he appears on the page:

“And you couldn’t even send your grandson a Christmas card?”

“Sonya, there’s selective memory at play here. I did send cards, which were returned unopened.”

It’s true I kind of edited that part out. It almost felt too painful to get those scraps when he wouldn’t show up in any real sense.

Bright Burning Things is published by Bloomsbury.

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