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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Come Closer

Sara Gran

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To purchase Come Closer

Title: Come Closer
Author: Sara Gran
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003
Length: 156 pages
Availability: Come Closer - US
Come Closer - UK
Come Closer - Canada
Viens plus près - France
Come closer - Deutschland
from: Bookshop.org (US)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : well-done (though how effective it is depends on one's tolerance for supernatural devices)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 16/7/2021 Lisa Tuttle
The NY Times Book Rev. A 26/10/2008 Terrence Rafferty
The Observer . 19/7/2021 Hephzibah Anderson
The Times . 22/5/2004 Fiona Hook
The Times . 5/3/2005 Chris Power

  From the Reviews:
  • "A short, wickedly sharp tale, elegantly constructed and genuinely disturbing, this take on demonic possession as experienced by a young, happily married, successful female architect in New York still feels contemporary and relevant today." - Lisa Tuttle, The Guardian

  • "(A) terrific short novel (.....) Come Closer remains one of the signal works of contemporary female horror because Gran manages to locate in her heroine’s anguished sexuality a kind of terror that the paranormal romancers routinely (and lucratively) deny, the uneasy sense that the forces unleashed inside her might be uncontrollable -- rampant, voracious, indifferent to natural limits and not unambiguously benign." - Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Come Closer evokes a turn-of-the-millennium world in which thirtysomethings could still afford urban lofts and mobile phones hadn’t become ubiquitous. The compromises and contortions required to succeed as a woman, however, haven’t aged a bit. (...) What makes Come Closer so magnetically disturbing is the way in which, even as Gran tells a knowing fable of diabolic possession, she leaves open the possibility that the demon (...) might emanate from Amanda’s repressed psyche." - Hephzibah Anderson, The Observer

  • "It's deeply scary, blurring as it does, the bounds between everyday life and the completely unthinkable. Just don't read it alone in a house with noisy plumbing." - Fiona Hook, The Times

  • "Gran's story, in which possession equals having an extremely long tongue and gurning a lot, falls laughably short of horror. (...) A blessedly brief, entirely silly novel." - Chris Power, The Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Come Closer is narrated by Amanda. Her mother had died when she was three, and her father and stepmother -- "who had never wanted children" -- died when she was twenty ("and left me nothing"). She had started out as an art major in college but then switched to architecture -- "One thing I noticed about the architects was that they dressed a hell of a lot better than the art professors. And they drove better cars. And they seemed a lot more likely to have spouses and even children, too" -- and now, in her mid-thirties, works in a small architecture firm. She's been together with her husband Ed for a couple of years now, and: "On the whole, Ed and I were happy -- with each other, with the loft, with out careers".
       The loft they live in, in a hundred-year-old building that had once been a factory, is a bit out of the way, but: "'It has character,' I told Ed. 'It has a personality !'" Eventually, it also has a tapping sound -- one whose source they can't identify. And as the tapping continues, their lives -- and specifically Amanda's -- slowly come apart.
       The opening chapter has her boss furious with her for a nasty message left on his desk that appears to have come from her, but she is certain that she put a different set of papers on his desk -- albeit one with the: "same heading, same format". It's only the first in a series of interactions with others which are often blurry and where she often can't imagine having been part of what happens -- though in pretty much every case, she has to admit that a part of her finds the actions justifiable. These incidents soon get pretty outrageous and extreme, too. It's as if, in spurts, her id has been completely let loose -- but with her memory of what exactly happens then often hazy.
       When she orders a book she wants for work, Design Issues Past and Present, and instead gets Demon Possession Past and Present she holds onto the mistaken delivery -- and takes the quiz on the first page, a ten-point guide to identifying: "Are You Possessed By a Demon ?" She'll take the quiz repeatedly over the course of the novel, and the results are ... not good. Come Closer chronicles her descent into ... well, something. Possession ? Her inner self unleashed ?
       Amanda takes up smoking again, fights more with her husband (and others), and gives off some really bad vibes, and that's all before things go seriously off the rails. She's aware that something is happening to her, but she doesn't know what to do about it. She consults spiritual counselors as well as a psychiatrist. She explains she's worried about her behavior:

     This isn't me. I mean of course it's me, it's not like it's someone else. What I mean is, it's not my usual personality.
       But it sure is something -- and: "It all started to pick up speed". Amanda finds herself in a dizzying downward spiral. She's dealing, or not dealing, with a demon -- inner ? outer ? -- she can't -- or doesn't really want to ? -- fight.
       Gran does spin this tale deftly quickly, Amanda's plunge into the abyss neatly presented both matter-of-factly yet also -- not least for Amanda -- remaining baffling, as Amanda struggles to maintain some hold but can't figure out what she's up against and how she might counter it. The other, whatever it is, remains a largely blurred (ir)reality -- though its actions are certainly real enough to Amanda -- and it's this allowing Amanda a small hold of seeing what is happening to her that makes the novel work as well as it does.
       There's no getting around the novel's reliance on the supernatural, and for readers who have little patience for that sort of thing (such as myself) the overall impact will be markedly lessened, but there's no question that on its own (yes, dubious) terms the story is very well-presented and done.

- M.A.Orthofer, 22 October 2023

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Come Closer: Reviews: Sara Gran: Other books by Sara Gran under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Sara Gran was born in 1971.

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© 2023 the complete review

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