But it’s there. Dread. Every day is an opportunity to fuck up. Every decision, every report. There’s no success, only the temporary aversion of failure. Dread. From the buzz and jingle of the alarm until I finally get back to sleep. Dread. Weighing cold in my gut, winding up around my oesophagus, seizing my throat. Dread. I lie stretched out on the couch or on my bed or just supine on the floor. Dread. I repeat the day over, interrogate it for errors or missteps or — anything. Dread, dread, dread, dread. Anything at all could be the thing that fucks everything up. I know it. That truth reverberates in my chest, a thumping bass line. Dread, dread. It’s choking me. Dread.
This stream-of-consciousness novella by Natasha Brown puts us in the mind of a Black woman on the rise. She’s just achieved a prominent position in the finance industry. She’s going to a party hosted by her white boyfriend’s family at their big home in the English countryside. Everything is going right. But there’s the dread. Always on her mind is how people perceive her. And she wonders if she’s where she ought to be. Has she given up too much? And then there’s the cancer diagnosis.
This book is only 102 pages, but there’s a lot going on, and not just in terms of plot. The narrator is handling a lot, and Brown deftly winds the reader through her thoughts, including some particularly unsettling ones that she just sort of lets sit there. This is a book meant to unsettle.
And then there’s the little bit at the beginning, a few pages not in first person, that cast a different light on everything the narrator has been thinking about. Pages about something we don’t hear about again but that is surely in the narrator’s mind. It’s interesting, though, that Brown puts this part in third person, as if she wants us to see this reality unfiltered, without the narrator’s interpretation of it. And it adds to the unsettling feeling, the dread, infused through this book.