BOOK REVIEW: LAYLA BY NINA DE LA MER
Layla lives in London, has an infant son, loves doing Class-A drugs and is a stripper. She’s also the protagonist of Nina de la Mer’s second novel, Layla.
From the premise, and those familiar with the Brighton-based author’s work, this should be one of the more fascinating and intriguing novels of our time. In reality, what starts out as a dark, gritty and moving tale becomes repetitive and anticlimactic.
It is all there on paper, so to speak. Mer displays a wonderful array of characters – from Layla’s insufferable house mates to her frighteningly abusive ‘lover’. The writing is clever, taking you deep into the mind of a troubled young woman with no way out and for this reason it is, at times, deeply uncomfortable.
The stage is set for a terrific plot as Layla battles drug addiction and tries to win custody over her son amidst the seedy backdrop of fictional Soho club, Elegance. However, the drama never really goes anywhere and the conclusion seems somewhat lacklustre. It’s like getting dressed for a party, inviting everyone over, opening the Bollinger and just sitting down for a night of Eastenders.
That said, it is not a book lacking in style and de la Mer has clearly done her research. Set primarily in London, you get a real feel for Mer’s understanding of Brighton culture and locale. She often mentions our great city, and it is invigorating to be able to say I’ve stood where Layla stood, I’ve seen what she’s seen.
Mer is very good at referencing popular culture and events without it becoming clichéd. Her first novel 4 am,which I thoroughly recommend, was why I had to buy Layla. She is a superb writer and there’s a damn good reason she’s called ‘the female Irvine Welsh.’
Ultimately Layla is an insight into youth mentality, Britain’s sex industry and the human condition but falls short of making a real impact on the reader.
If you’ve not read Layla or I’ve peaked your interest please grab a copy and comment below, it would be great to hear your views.*
Photo by Dominic Alves