When a young mother, Joyce Haney, disappears from her home in an affluent suburb, she leaves behind two small children and evidence of a struggle in the kitchen. As neighbours rally round Joyce’s husband, the only person who asks awkward questions is the black “help”, Ruby Wright. She has observed these people behind closed doors, tolerating their casual racism, and she is not convinced they are as innocent as they claim. Vesper mixes a gripping plot with pithy views on class, sex and race.
Inga Vesper’s remarkably assured debut, The Long, Long Afternoon , takes us into Stepford Wives territory: the California suburb of Sunnylakes in 1959, where housewives have to be tranquillised up to the eyeballs in order to bear the smallness and isolation imposed on them by the American dream. The racism is as systemic as the sexism: when Joyce Haney vanishes, leaving behind two young children and a bloodstained kitchen, the police promptly arrest her black maid, Ruby.
Joyce Haney, a housewife in suburban California in 1959, contemplates the “gummy hours” of the afternoon “when the minutes crawl past like slugs”. But soon Joyce will be missing, leaving behind two children and blood stains on the surfaces of her usually immaculate kitchen. Detective Michael (Mick) Blanke is brought in to find her but is flummoxed by the middle-class inhabitants of Sunnylakes with their perfect lawns and stifled lives... Mick and Ruby — the story unfolds from both of their perspectives — uncover the secrets of Sunnylakes. This is a clever and absorbing debut by the British writer Inga Vesper, who bricks Joyce up in her perfect house and then smashes it to pieces with aplomb.
Set in California during a smouldering summer in 1959, this is more than a mystery anout a missing housewife. Exploring women's places in society, racial tension, and how we view others, this is a fine read. I wish a fan of the main protaganists, Ruby Wright, and her determination to be her own woman.