Writing in the Guardian late last year, Philip Pullman said this of what he regards as the dominant style in contemporary fiction: ‘What I dislike about the present-tense narrative is its limited range of expressiveness. I feel claustrophobic, always pressed up against the immediate.’ This description highlights both the virtues and the flaws in Jennifer Mills’s second novel, Gone. Frequently powerful, and highly attuned to both landscape and psychology, the method by which it conjures these forces – a relentless use of the present tense, with all its sweaty immediacy and driven focus – is also the same method that occasionally exhausts the reader. Mills has created a vivid yet punishing book.
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