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  • Writer's pictureBP Gregory

What Are We Reading?: Under a Watchful Eye, Adam Nevill


4/5 Out of Body Experiences

Give me the short version:

Seb’s placid days have unwittingly drawn the regard of malignancy, a foul intrusion that will loosen his grip on the world.

You may remember the short Yellow Teeth from Mr Nevill’s darkly exquisite collection Some Will Not Sleep: Selected Horrors, by which filthy insistent Ewan pushes his way in to befoul the protagonist’s life.

If not, quick go read it and race back. For its bald honesty coupled with elegance of phrase, at the time Yellow Teeth was one of the most difficult things I’d read. It’s the sort of tale to make you scour your skin with bleach after and lock all your doors, albeit admiringly. In Under a Watchful Eye Ewan is back, trailing more than filth in his wake; but this is not simply more of the same. Nevill’s spiky, goat-horn laurels aren’t for resting on: he’s an author who takes chances, unflinchingly experimenting and evolving. Writers writing about writers is a rite of passage everyone crawls along at one point or another. The painfully self-aware artist isn’t my favourite character, but even if it’s not yours either Seb’s trip-and-plunge into juicy inner terror arrives quickly enough to hustle you past. More, Seb is pompous, well off, and dithering enough to strike a spark of nasty satisfaction each time his life takes a turn for the worse. I found the pacing a bit start-stop and probably best devoured in one go lest you lose the thread. However, Mr Nevill has definitely achieved a new height of the shuddering creeps. If you can, for full effect burn through Under a Watchful Eye at night. I was nervously checking the corners by daylight, no telling what giving the dark free reign might bring.

Favourite bit:

"Her nostrils and eyes were pitch black. She whimpered piteously and padded her palsied hands against the walls as if the room had been a sudden, strange and unexpected revelation."

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