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A L Kennedy: Original Bliss

Helen Brindle was a religious woman but she lost her faith, not least because of her marriage to an abusive husband. She now watches educational programmes on television. It is while watching one such programme, that she sees Edward Gluck, a psychology professor, talking about masturbation and his self-help technique called The Process. Mrs. Brindle is interested. She reads his books and then travels to Stuttgart to attend a conference where he is giving a presentation. They meet and while she is seeking his help, he soon confesses his problems to her. His main problem is addiction to pornography and he hopes Mrs. Brindle can help him. The two correspond but, when Mr. Brindle finds out, he assumes that they are having an affair and brutalises his wife even more. However, she accepts this, feeling that it is God’s will for her lack of faith. We soon come to realise that Helen and Edward represent redemption and hope for one another and, atypically, Kennedy gives us an unambiguously happy ending, as both deal with their respective problems. As Kennedy said later, she may have regretted this happy ending but, because she is such a fine writer, it works, not least because of her usual black humour and her skill at keeping us away – well away – from slushy romanticism.

Publishing history

First published 1997 by Jonathan Cape