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Alys, Always

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  3,344 ratings  ·  578 reviews
Frances is a thirty-something sub-editor, an invisible production drone on the books pages of the Questioner. Her routine and colourless existence is disrupted one winter evening when she happens upon the aftermath of a car crash and hears the last words of the driver, Alys Kyte. When Alys's family makes contact in an attempt to find closure, Frances is given a tantalising ...more
Hardcover, 211 pages
Published February 9th 2012 by W&N (first published 2012)
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3.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,344 ratings  ·  578 reviews

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Alys, Always, the first novel by Harriet Lane, has received rather a lot of press, and all of it - without exception, as far as I'm aware - has been positive. Given that the author is a former journalist who has written for most of the British broadsheets, this isn't so surprising. But a few things about the book grabbed my attention anyway: the beautiful cover, the promise of a story set amidst the London literary scene, the comparisons to Zoe Heller's masterful Notes On a Scandal.

Frances Thorp
Nov 10, 2012 rated it did not like it
The emperor has no clothes. You know when you find yourself checking the clock during a movie or eyeing the measure of remaining pages in a book with an increasing sense of unease of how the story will wrap up in a satisfactory way and doesn't. Sometimes it turns out it was just a dumb story to begin with that goes nowhere. Welcome to Alys, Always. We're supposed to shiver at the depths of cunning and deceit of the main character, Frances in her quest to "rise above" her pedestrian li ...more
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
In the vein of Notes on a Scandal and The Woman Upstairs, Alys, Always focuses on a character who's on the outside looking in. Mid-thirties and single, working as an uncelebrated and unnoticed editor of a flailing newspaper, Frances Thorpe quite simply lives an unremarkable life. One night, driving home, she encounters a serious car accident and keeps the driver company as they wait for an ambulance to arrive. The driver turns out to be Alys Kyte, wife of well-respected author Laurence Kyte, and ...more
May 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Alys, Always is Harriet Lane's debut novel, narrated in the first person by Frances Thorpe - a quiet and rather unremarkable person, who works as a sub-editor for the book section of The Observer and lives alone in her north London flat, having few friends and socializing very infrequently.

Frances is resigned to her life being little more than the plodding job and solitude, until one day she witnesses a traffic accident. Frances pulls over and approaches the crashed vehicle, noticing that a wom
Tea Leaves and Reads
Jan 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
For an acclaimed psychological thriller, this was pretty weak. Maybe it's the inner psychotic inside me that thinks there could have been so much more made of this, or maybe actually many others agree. I was waiting for the crunch, the big one, the bit where she so wildly oversteps the line there is no going back. Yes she manipulates, yes there are the occasional crazy behaviors dropped in but it's not enough.

I felt that the characters surrounding Frances could have been explored a bit more, som
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I kinda thought I’d like this book, but alas. Woe is me. 🤷🏼♀ Our heroine begins the story with a life in black and white. Soon she steps into the life of a dead woman and begins to color her life in. She manipulates people and her retribution is a happily ever after. Yeah...a bit weird.🤷🏼♀ ...more
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-book
It took a bit to get started, but once it did I enjoyed this novel about a woman who ingratiates herself into the family of a celebrated novelist and his rarefied social circles. Frances Thorpe’s fixation with Laurence Kyte’s family and lifestyle was reminiscent of Nora’s obsession with the Shahid family in Claire Messud’s, The Woman Upstairs. Frances wasn’t quite as angry as Nora; but, both women divulge personal thoughts of a stifled life and career. Likewise, the object of their obsession rep ...more
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Charlotte Black drops back to join me. She’s one of those rare women who looks as pulled together off duty as she does in more formal circumstances. I have to admire her slim-fitting, dark cotton dress and flat, plain sandals and the few adroit bits of silver. “Are you having a good holiday?” she asks as we pause to let two teenagers drag a dinghy over the road, up towards a boatshed.

“Oh, yes. I didn’t really have any plans, and then Polly asked me down, and I’ve never quite got around to leavin
Feb 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed
What a wonderful book: it is clever, subtle, clear and compelling.

It begins with Frances, driving back to her home in London on Sunday evening after spending the weekend with her parents.

She sees an overturned car in the road. And so she stops, she calls the emergency services, and then she goes to speak to the woman in the car, to reassure her that help is on the way.

The woman is trapped, and she is injured, but she is calm and lucid. Alys waits with her until help arrives and then she continue
Deborah Markus
The short review: Hmm.

The details: I have no idea how I feel about this book.

It's beautifully written. It's compelling. I looked forward to the reading time I could steal from a busy day, and was more irritable than usual when my family interrupted me.

But when I got to the end – and it was a good, decisive ending, in contrast to that of Lane's second novel, Her - I felt vaguely dissatisfied. I don't know if that's the book's fault or my own.

I think it must be mine. I'm a terrible shallow reader
Maya Panika
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Just… Wow. It’s rare - very rare indeed - that a book that comes with as many superlatives as this lives up to the hype, but Alys Always absolutely does and more. The writing is superb, the style flinty and sparse yet richly descriptive.
The story follows the Machiavellian scheming of Frances Thorpe, an underachieving, under-noticed sub editor on the literary pages of a floundering broadsheet - a description which does no justice at all to this remarkable novel: a first-person story told in
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is exceptional. "Alys, Always" kept me guessing right up until the end. Frances Thorpe, subeditor for the books section, lives an unexceptional life and is easy to overlook. Then Frances witnesses the final moments of Alys Kyte, wife of a celebrated novelist, and everything changes.

Frances is asked to meet with the grieving family, and is drawn into their world. Alys and Laurence's daughter Polly, a glamorous yet flaky drama student, is Frances' way of getting a foot in the door - by a
Feb 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading the editorial reviews for Alys, Always I was expecting a taut and riveting read. While it has some intense moments-especially the opening chapter-Alys, Always never quite lives up to its billing. The story is about Frances Thorpe, a young editorial assistant (Frances refers to herself as a "sub editor-an invisible production drone") in the books department at a London magazine, the Questioner. One evening while driving in the London countryside, Frances comes across a serious car c ...more
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This slow burning domestic drama about a sparrow of a woman trying to pass herself off as a peacock reminded me favorably of Ruth Rendell's later work. I admired the author's ability to convey just enough detail about the privileged and luxurious family the protagonist is attempting to gain entrance to through nefarious means. A wonderfully insidious thriller for folks who think they don't like thrillers.
Victoria Maule
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have just finished 'Alys ,Always' and enjoyed it so much that I was compelled to post my first Good Reads review.This is a wonderful book with an intriguing protagonist and a fascinating plot.The sense of time and place are utterly convincing, and so well observed. I read it over two days in between the chaos of family life and could not stop myself from dipping back into the book at every possible opportunity.I was completely absorbed by the plot and the characters were so well developed that ...more
I suppose I was meant to find narrator Frances Thorpe to be cunning & manipulative, and I suppose I admire her continued attempts to ingratiate herself into the Kyte family even as the son calls her "Thingy," but this doesn't ever really go anywhere. Yes, Frances goes on and on about how good she is at reading people and giving them what they want and controlling them without their knowing, but I kept waiting for the other sinister shoe to drop and it never happened. Her dreams and her ambit ...more
Jun 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Frances, a single thirty-something London newspaper sub-editor, is one of those people who are convinced that everybody is having a good time behind their back. She feels overlooked at work, excluded from the cool crowd, and looks down on anyone who actually wants to spend time with her (her parents and siblings). Her life doesn't sound that bad to me. It seems easy enough to change jobs, find a hobby, sign up for online dating and read a couple of self-help books. Lucky for us, she chooses the ...more
Shelby (shelbyymay)
Set on one wintry and icy night, our MC Frances, is driving through the countryside where she notices a vehicle that appears to have been in an accident. She rushes over to call an ambulance, and ends up spending the last few moments of the single passenger's life (Alys), keeping her company until the emergency services arrive.
Shortly afterwards, Frances is contacted by a Family Liaison officer, who would like her to meet with Alys's family (husband and two grown up kids), to help them with clos
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Frances is driving back to London from a weekend with her parents in Suffolk on an icy wintry evening when she sees a car off the road. She finds Alys seriously injured and waits with her until the police and ambulance arrive. Frances lives alone and works as a sub editor mainly dealing with book reviews. She enjoys her job but is conscious she is drifting through life. Gradually she becomes involved with Alys’s family and her life changes.

This is a strange book with an unreliable narrator. We n
It's a good, but ultimately pointless book. It's a chronicle of one woman's manipulations to become the next Mrs. Kyte (Mr. Kyte being a bigshot writer). Frances Thorpe is the first person on the scene of an accident. Mrs. Kyte dies in that accident, and Frances is contacted to meet the family. She ultimately worms her way into the family and into Mr. Kyte's heart and bed while also improving her fortunes at the newspaper she works. This is all good, and it's a readable, short book. There's a pa ...more
Mar 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Patricia Highsmith's Snail
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
My brain needed a break after reading a very long manuscript. This was perfect - pretty compulsive and some very good points about class, although the conclusion is a little dull. Highsmith-lite (I guess very psychological thrillers could be as dark as Highsmith’s work).
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Protagonist Frances is driving home Sunday evening after yet another dreary weekend visit to her parents in the country when she happens upon a car that has hit a patch of black ice, flipped off the road into the grass in the forest. She gets out, unsure if anyone could survive, but she hears a woman talking. As she moves closer she can't see the woman, due to the dark woods and windows fogged from inside, but the woman's voice seems calm. Frances asks, "Hey - are you alright?", then uses her mo ...more
David Rickert
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Alys Always is a deceptively complex book. The main character, Frances, witnesses a car accident and, as a witness, comes to know the family in sinister ways. Lane takes you down one road but gradually leads you down a different road altogether as you find out what Frances' motivations are.

Lane makes terrific use out of the first person narrative - she knows exactly what to leave out to create suspense and can use dramatic irony with the best of them. After I finished the book I flipped through
Rachel Hall
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling & unsettling tale of ambition, manipulation & social climbing but no psycho thriller..

For Frances Thorpe a thirty-something, bookish sub-editor and pretty irrelevant to all about her, from colleagues to family, her daily routine and uninspiring existence is interrupted when late one Sunday night she comes across the aftermath of a car accident, stays with the victim and is privilege to hearing her final words. Hearing that the victim - Alice Kite - was confirmed dead at the sc
Glassworks Magazine
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Review: Alys, Always

Reviewed by Cherita Harrell

In Harriet Lane’s debut novel Alys, Always, the reader is introduced to the narrator Frances Thorpe—a thirty something copy editor for a failing London magazine who stumbles on a car accident one night when returning home from visiting her parents. Frances’s actions in the beginning of the novel mimic those of an innocent do-gooder—a person who stops at the sight of an accident, and discovers a victim hidden by the darkness, buried beneath the crush
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frances Thorpe lives a modest and uneventful life in North London. A thirty-something and single sub-editor on the books pages of a struggling newspaper, she spends her humdrum days at work and passes solitary nights in a shabby but comfortable flat. She has few close friends and her family don't understand her.

Driving home one night from her parents' house in the country, Frances happens across the scene of a terrible car accident and hears the last words of the victim before she dies. As the l
Simon Lipson
Dec 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Frances is driving home one night when she sees a car on its side. Inside is an injured woman with whom she speaks briefly before she passes away. Frances proceeds to ingratiate herself with the deceased's family, not least by fabricating a key element of the woman's last few words. Story-wise, there's not a great deal more to it than that (at least, not without giving the somewhat limited game away). The structure is linear and straightforward, the writing spare and unfussy.

There are some inter
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily M
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Oh, I how LOVE unlikeable characters. And Frances is a very, very unlikeable one. Though she is clearly a somewhat unappreciated and lonesome woman living 'on the fringes,' so to speak, she is also manipulative, calculating, unfeeling, and, at times, downright creepy as hell. At her core, though, she is a very hungry tiger and when she finally sees opportunity brewing, she seizes it -- no matter what.

I'm giving this one four stars (4.5, really), simply because I liked Her just an inch or two mor
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Harriet Lane has worked as an editor and staff writer at TATLER and the OBSERVER. She has also written for the GUARDIAN, the TELEGRAPH and VOGUE. She lives in north London.
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“I know the names of the books - their old covers bleached to palest greens or pinks by the endless cycle of summers - lined up on the shelf.” 5 likes
“Maybe it's not really lying if you barely know you're doing it. It should be true. It's the way it should be, in an ideal world.” 5 likes
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