The Ground is Full of Holes, by Suzy Norman, is written in an abrupt and often opaque style. Much is inferred but little explained with the plot unfolding mainly through ongoing dialogue and character’s thought processes. The story focuses on a middle aged couple, Nancy and Marcus, who have been married for a decade and have no children. They live in a small terraced house in Fulham, West London, that is not entirely satisfactory to either of them – for differing reasons. Irish born Marcus is a consultant anaesthetist at Barts Hospital. Nancy is on extended leave from her high ranking position in the banking sector. Their marriage is under considerable strain.
Circling this couple are Nancy’s sister and her husband – Georgia and Shiv. Before Marcus, Nancy had been involved with Shiv and there are still tensions because of this. Neither Nancy nor Marcus are maritally faithful although they do not admit this to each other. Marcus’s current affair is with a nurse who assists him in operations. Nancy has her eye on another of her old flames.
Nancy clearly has ongoing issues to contend with that her family are growing impatient with. She turns for solace to her friend, Anna, who has troubles of her own.
His wife’s behaviour frustrates and at times angers Marcus. The fallout from this leads to a tragic error at work. Everything he has built appears to crumble at a time when Nancy needs her husband’s attention. Marcus directs his anger at his in-laws, deflecting the shame he feels for letting down, as he sees it, his own parents.
It took me some time to engage with the writing style and structure to the extent that I nearly gave up reading around a quarter of the way in. Once it became clear that development is more character study than plot driven I was able to accept what was being explored and dissected. I did not always enjoy the reading – the hankering for romance without effort at times veered too close to elements of genre fiction – although there is plenty to consider in the handling of troubled relationships. It is a family tale offering a snapshot of flawed characters, a marriage, and the difficulties inherent in wider family posturing and expectation. I did not find it satisfying to read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Patrician Press.