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The Seduction Reviews

The Seduction by Joanna Briscoe

The Seduction

Joanna Briscoe

3.18 out of 5

7 reviews

Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication date: 11 Jun 2020
ISBN: 9781408873496

What if the person you most trusted turned out to be the most dangerous of all?

2 stars out of 5
Johanna Thomas-Corr
13 Jun 2020

"a messy rehash of Briscoe’s other tales of upper-middle-class crisis"

Ultimately, The Seduction is a messy rehash of Briscoe’s other tales of upper-middle-class crisis. The women are histrionic and flighty, the men controlling and obstinate. There are nutty narcissists, unexplained smells and half-seen figures flitting around in mysterious ways. Fragments of literature or art unlock a secret — the sort of event that only happens in Novelland. And the plot relies on every character behaving in an implausibly stupid way just so the author can hurl them all towards disaster. But disaster is not inevitable — just grindingly predictable.


4 stars out of 5
13 Jun 2020

"The setting may be bourgeois but the beautifully observed familial pains are universal."

What fascinated me far more was Beth’s relationship with Fern, who starts calling her mother’s mannerisms disgusting, even while Beth lingers lovingly over her ‘fetishistic hoarding of tissues’ in the way that only a parent can. Beth breathes in Fern’s scent, whispers ‘I love you’ through the dark, and flinches when wounds are inflicted with casual teenage viciousness. Briscoe has an ear for teen speak: ‘Just leave me alone. You are honestly crazy? God. Get a life.’ The setting may be bourgeois but the beautifully observed familial pains are universal.

3 stars out of 5
12 Jun 2020

"Domestic noir has a tendency to be silly, but this is absolutely nuts"

One thing leads to another and soon Beth and her therapist are meeting up for illicit drinks and dinners, Dr B now dressing in slinky outfits, with high heels, painted lips and a line in seductive chat that puts pick-up artists to shame. Beth starts to feel increasingly ostracised at home both by hubby Sol, and Fern, who says things like “Don’t flip your shit” and “Holy crap.” Is that really how 13-year-olds speak these days? And I’ll eat my hat if the scene in which Beth and Dr B eventually get down and almost dirty isn’t nominated for the Bad Sex Award.

4 stars out of 5
11 Jun 2020

"explores the depths of human nature"

Delving into the complex psychological relationship between therapist Dr Tamara Bywater and her client Beth, this explores the depths of human nature and our capacity for vulnerability and control. 

3 stars out of 5
Patricia Nicol
7 Jun 2020

"As this febrile, urgent tale tries to reach its climax, it becomes more like a contemporary gothic fever dream than anything plausible"

Illicit relationships that go beyond sanctioned boundaries are a specialism of Briscoe’s, whose previous novels include the bestselling Sleep with Me. Beth’s increasing distraction is described in a heightened, vivid style. As problems pile up at home, her blocked creativity is freed; she draws riverscapes in brackish tones, with a dangerous undertow.


4 stars out of 5
4 Jun 2020

"a page-turning psycho sexual romp"

As fans might expect, Briscoe’s new novel is a page-turning psycho sexual romp in which a bout of midlife hanky-panky unpacks some deeply-stowed emotional baggage...

But leave your pedantry at the door and you’re free to enjoy the helter-skelter ride, yelling at Beth and Tamara for their terrible decision-making...

3 stars out of 5
Lara Feigel
3 Jun 2020

"through this addictive, macabre fairground ride of a novel, Briscoe reminds us to value the quieter forms of love"

Either way, once we look beyond the relationship with the therapist, Beth’s relationships with her mother and especially her daughter are portrayed with a specificity and tenderness that make these scenes fully convincing. We can sense the weight of Fern’s body when Beth takes her in her arms, the stiffness of rejection when Fern refuses to let her mother touch her. If therapy feels so much flimsier than family life then perhaps this is the book’s underlying message: that care comes through instinct rather than training, that trust takes years to build, that talking can be as destructive as curative. Certainly, through this addictive, macabre fairground ride of a novel, Briscoe reminds us to value the quieter forms of love.