A Kind of Intimacy is a deep, dark journey into the mind of Annie, an unreliable narrator of her own tragic story. Annie is a morbidly obese twenty-something with, it seems at first, a failed marriage behind her and a mood of unrelenting optimism. We join her as she moves into suburbia and makes an immediate impact on her neighbours.
The novel balances on the strength of Annie’s voice, which although reserved and prissy, belies her outrageous acts of abandon. In her search for her ideal of true love, she is constantly disappointed as she embarks on a quest to find her first boyfriend. Nothing unique about that, you might think, until we discover that her route is via BBW magazines and meeting with strangers which result in violence.
Her eye turns to her well-meaning next door neighbour, Neil, who is polite to the point of laziness. His younger girlfriend, Lucy, becomes an object of hate for Annie. Whilst apparently dismissing Lucy as a temporary arrangement, Annie copies her clothes and reads her mail, becoming increasing unpleasant to her whilst defending herself eloquently to the Neighbourhood Watch coordinator and neighbour, Sangita. The constant quotes from self-help manuals and references to book Annie reads infer that perhaps Annie’s idealism is rooted in her blinkered view of romantic love. In a disturbing, yet often ironically comical ending, Annie destroys everything Lucy and finally attacks Lucy herself, who has become the epitome of everything Annie reluctantly covets.
Suspense laden, the book leads the reader on a journey through Annie’s miserable marriage and the death of her daughter, as well as her husband, the circumstances of which suggest mirrored meanings around what women are considered capable and culpable of within relationships. The novel is a page turner, with a culmination of expectations cascading towards the almost inevitable fall of Annie at the end. We hope that she sees sense, realises she is deluded, but even the final word is from an unrepentant Annie who still believes that Neil is the one.
The subject of obesity and expectations around idealised romance and love make uncomfortable reading, but this is the point of the novel: Annie was never comfortable in her skin, not even as a child, not even when she told hersef so ardently that she was, and neither should the reader be as they experience her journey through the strength of the author’s prose.