Nightshift By Kiare Ladner – A Review

Publisher: Picador

Publication Date: 18th February 2021

With its striking cover and promise of ‘a story of obsession set in London’s liminal world of nightshift workers’ I was drawn to Nightshift by Kiare Ladner and even included it in my most anticipated reads of 2021 post.

Set in London in the late 90’s, Meggy is our first person narrator. Meggy works the day shift for a press company, summarising news stories. When enigmatic Belgian Sabine joins the company, Meggy starts to find her fascinating and finds herself wondering more and more about who Sabine is and what she’s all about.

Meggy is in a relationship with Graham, a ‘safe’ and stable man who is infinitely patient with Meggy and her seeming reluctance to make a commitment to him. Meggy appreciates her cosseted life with Graham but yearns for excitement and new adventures.

When Sabine transfers to the nightshift and asks Meggy to transfer with her, they embark on a strange relationship against the backdrop of London’s nightshift workers. A motley crew who drink their way through their shift, taking drugs to pep themselves up and shake off the exhaustion.

As Meggy becomes deeper and deeper involved in Sabine’s life, orbiting her at a distance, she begins to realise that their relationship cannot be neatly slotted into a conventional ‘friendship’ box nor can it be considered a sexual/romantic relationship. The women exist in a strange dance of withholding elements of themselves whilst tiptoeing ever closer to intimacy.

Meggy pulls further and further away from Graham, who is happy for her to experiment with her wants and desires. She almost wants to slip into the role of being someone else, that someone being Sabine.

Sabine is a character who could be considered frustrating and if she were your friend in real life you would have to be a very relaxed and forgiving person to have her in your life. She appears and disappears from Meggy’s life, jetting away with her ‘lover’ and becoming someone else entirely with him. She is secretive and closed up unless sharing on her terms. There is a constant shift in the dynamic between the two women but ultimately it is Meggy who suffers the most.

One of the elements I loved about this book was the portrayal of the other handful of nightshift workers in Meggy’s team. Prawn, Earl, Lizard and Sherry seem to exist only when Meggy is around them and then each disappear into different worlds when they are on their two weeks off. These characters come to life in the darkness of the night, vodka in their coffee cups and lines of cocaine along with their regular Pot Noodle breaks.

The effect of nightshift working on Meggy’s body clock does nothing to help her confusion over her relationships. You can really feel the exhaustion and muffled thought processes brought on by too little sleep and the strangeness of living your waking life in the dark.

The writing is sharp and precise. The sense of place and time is very apparent and I really felt like I was back in the late 90’s. This is a sometimes melancholy story of the desire to be someone else and obsession and whether you can ultimately extricate yourself from it.

I really did enjoy it and I thoroughly recommend it.

Thank you as always to the publisher for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

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