This much the blurb will tell you but by the time you read this far in the book you will also have been introduced to the unnamed wife living in an unusual set of circumstances and it's clear the novel is going to be flashback.
One of the many interesting facets of Morag Joss's book was that unknowing, followed by a vast amount of speculation then invested in what might happen before the final page. I doubt anyone approaching The Night Following will second-guess quite what is to follow.
Some of it, if I'm honest, involved a serious stretching of even my imagination, based as it is on the knowledge that many of those extraordinary life situations I have found myself involved in on a professional basis would be entirely 'unbelievable' if I ever found them in a novel.
So there's a bit of a lesson for me there in the aftermath of this book, I think and often say 'I've seen it all' but according to Morag Joss, I haven't.
I did visit an elderly spinster many years ago, isolated, alone and grief stricken since the loss of her parents years previously, a complete recluse living in a house stacked to the rafters with rubbish and all her money, vast amounts of it, in carrier bags in the cellar...but that's perhaps the nearest I've come to what pans out in The Night Following.
The novel follows three distinct narrative threads which interweave.
That of the unnamed wife of the anaesthetist who is appropriately numbed first by her marriage and then considerably discombobulated by the shock of the accident from which she had fled, locking the Saab in the garage but not before she has wreaked a bit more hammer and chisel revenge on her husband via his already damaged yellow paintwork.
Then there is the victim Ruth's bereaved husband Arthur, distraught and driven to the edge of insanity by his grief, who writes letters to his wife on the advice of his bereavement counsellor...more to stop her nagging him than for any therapeutic benefit. The letters are fine, but Arthur's life is most certainly not as he descends into a state of confused self-neglect and bizarre behaviours. It's that moment to question if and when does a grief reaction ever become complex.
Finally, Ruth's novel The Cold and the Beauty and the Dark which also occasionally intervenes. Ruth was a creative writer who belonged to a writer's group and always had a WIP (Work In Progress) and this is one of the clever bits of the book because as well as offering some uncanny coincidences to the fabric of the unnamed wife's life, of which Ruth can have known nothing, it is also a much 'lesser' book. The writing style and the plot is vastly amateur compared to that of Morag Joss thus making clear literary distinctions between a published and a non-published author.
The unnamed wife insinuates herself most bizarrely into Arthur's life and between them they both suffer from a grieving process riddled with guilt and sadness that would probably challenge the most competent of psychiatrists to unravel, nor do I want to dig myself into a deeper hole by trying to explain and thus unearth more plot details...you'll have to read it to find out.
I'm never very good at deciding when a book can manage without words, when a bit of an edit might add to my enjoyment. I tend to read what's there because it is and don't give it another thought unless something starts to shout at me and I think something did start whispering to me during The Night Following.
There is no denying it, Morag Joss writes quite beautifully, her way with words is often haunting, they echo off the page long after you've read them, but often I felt a fraction less would have given me so much more. This is an intense book made both more and less so by its length, and there were moments towards the end when I could feel myself flagging, much could have been distilled and I would have come away with a very different and I suspect more profound reading experience.
So what with that and the plot continuing to stretch my disbelief just an inch too far as it worked its way towards tying up all the lose and flailing ends, I ended up in need of resuscitation by the time I had turned the final page.
But I just had to know what happened, forgetting that I sort of knew that already from the beginning, and as a novel about accidental death, grief and loss this one is remarkable for its depiction of so much that could happen. The nameless narrator denying herself an identity and denying us as readers too, a lifetime lived with the increasing burden of guilt unassuaged, the intense suffering of those who mourn and the ease with which we judge those whose lives and reactions seem beyond our ken and quite alien to us.
Morag Joss has explored it all here and if you've read The Night Following I'd love to know your thoughts.
The community nurses are regular visitors to Arthur and to be honest, if I came across any of this in a day's work I'd be dashing into the GP to drag him out to do a home visit, the GP would be on the phone to the Crisis Team within minutes, we'd be calling in the Elderly Care Team who wouldn't take no for an answer when safety is as compromised as Arthur's was, so there'd be no novel.
Morag Joss can surely be forgiven for handling it all very differently to me.