Beatrice by Noëlle HarrisonWednesday 22 Sep 2004
'Beatrice', Noëlle Harrison's first novel, is an evocative and atmospheric exploration of family secrets. When the eponymous heroine disappears, presumed murdered, in the 1960s she leaves a trail of clue-like belongings, behind her. The forlorn pearls, beret, scarf, sketchbook and compact divide the book into sections told from the perspective of different narrators including Beatrice, her sister, Eithne, and their mother, Sarah.
Just 13 when Beatrice disappeared, Eithne also lost her parents at the same time - grief-stricken Sarah did not speak for five years while their father Joe drowned his sorrows and anger in the local pub. Now a grown woman and artist, Eithne's loss informs her work, the loving descriptions of which show evidence of Harrison's previous work as an art critic.
With a narrative that jumps back and forth between the past and the present, 'Beatrice' is not a straightforward read but it is an unputdownable one. Although not a short book, it feels like it ends fat too soon with the reader being happy to spend plenty more time in the company of the book's characters. Poised and poignant, 'Beatrice' is an enjoyable debut from a talented writer.