Pennance-by-Clare-AshtonPennance by Clare Ashton is a tortured tale of regret, sorrow and the weight of love.

Lucy is troubled by the death of her boyfriend, Jake. She lives in a perpetual twilight and moves through life as if she is moving through mud.

Isolated in a deserted part of a small town, Lucy is barely living, sustained only by some mandatory work and a few visits from her dead boyfriend’s brother.

When a new family moves in across the road from her she is drawn to the woman, Karen, and soon they become friends.

Things are not all happily ever after, though.

Clare Ashton has a magnificent writing style. Her text is weighty and makes you feel the pressure of Lucy’s world. When she describes the ocean and the cliffs then you can almost smell the salt in the air.

This is a heavy read, though, full of sorrow and longing. It is by no means a happy book.

The Characters

Both characters are fairly one dimensional, Lucy is drowning in her sorrow and Karen is battling her own demons. I would have liked to see a little more depth from Karen in particular.

Having said this, I felt for both women and really wanted them to get together and find the light.

The Writing Style

One of my favourite things about Clare Ashton is that she will never write the same book twice. Every one of her works is a completely unique entity. Her tone changes, her characters are never the same and even her writing style changes to suit the book.

The one consistent thing about Ashton’s work is that she writes well.

Clare Ashton is a great storyteller. Her writing is clean and beautiful and perhaps even a little better than most authors in the lesbian genre.

The Pros

The book is utterly unique. You will search to find anything comparable in the lesbian genre. It is well written and really dark. Some people tout this as a ghost story and it is easy to see why. It is moody and oppressive. Yet it isn’t really a ghost story. Not in the traditional sense at least.

The Cons

There was too little romance in it for my liking. But having said that, unless women are smooching, five pages in, I am generally not happy, so don’t let this criticism worry you.

The Conclusion

Ashton is a master of the written word. This book is testament to how a simple line of text can make you feel so much.

This is not a happy book. If you want something light then try That Certain Something by Clare Ashton.

If, however, you want to read something utterly unique, dark and compelling then try this one.

Excerpt from Pennance by Clare Ashton

I pushed my feet into a pair of running shoes on the mat and reached out to turn the key to unlock the front door.

It wouldn’t turn. I stood, stunned, remembering that it was already unlocked. I stared at it, confused at why Tom has not forced his way into the house. A wave of fright rose in my chest. I doubted my memory for a moment. Had he stepped into the house? Had he stared at me, watched me as I cowered on the stairs, lost in guilty memories. I felt disoriented, unsure at what had happened.

My hand shook as I removed the key from the door. I stepped outside, carefully, feeling the earth firm under my feet before taking another step. The cold air outside touched my face, sobering me. I shook my head trying to shake the memories back into their right place. How long had it been since Tom Riley had called?

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About the author

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Sheena is the founder of The Lesbian Review.

She discovered lesbian fiction when she was 19. Radclyffe and Karin Kallmaker soon became favourite authors and she spent a large part of her hard earned income on shipping books from to her home in South Africa.

Over the years she became frustrated with purchasing mediocre lesbian fiction feeling like it was a waste of her money and time. And so she decided to share only the best books and movies with lesbians who are looking for only the best. And so, The Lesbian Review was born