Nightshift by Kiare Ladner reviewed

Nightshift Book Cover Nightshift
Kiare Ladner
Pan Macmillan
February 18, 2021

Nightshift is a story of obsession set in London’s liminal world of nightshift workers.

When twenty-three-year-old Meggie meets distant and enigmatic Sabine, she recognises in her the person she would like to be. Giving up her daytime existence, her reliable boyfriend, and the trappings of a normal life in favour of working the same nightshifts as Sabine could be the perfect escape for Meggie. She finds a liberating sense of freedom in indulging her growing obsession with Sabine and plunges herself into another existence, gradually immersing herself in the transient and uncertain world of the nightshift worker.

Dark, sexy, frightening, Nightshift explores ambivalent friendship, sexual attraction and lives that defy easy categorisation. London’s stark urban reality is rendered other-worldly and strange as Meggie’s sleep deprivation, drinking and obsession for Sabine gain a momentum all of their own. Can Meggie really lose herself in her trying to become someone else?

A novel of obsession and desire, Kiare Ladner's Nightshift is a beautiful and moving debut which asks profound questions about who we are and if we can ever really truly escape ourselves.

Nightshift by Kiare Ladner

At the start of this book – some 20 years after the events – Meggie is reflecting on her life in her 20s. She is writing about these events in what may be a therapeutic way. At 23 her life was not really going anywhere particularly. And then she looks up from her desk at work one day and sees a new and enigmatic co-worker, Sabine. She becomes intrigued with Sabine and then things deepen. She starts to change her life in order to be more like, and closer to, Sabine.

Nightshift then follows Meggie’s life. The gradual change in her is so well done. As it would be in someone going through this, some of the changes are almost imperceptible. Thinking back over the book it almost sends a shiver down my spine. For me the book was highly readable and drew me steadily in. The question is “Is she really freeing herself from her previous life or not?”.

Meggie does change. Her interactions with fellow workers, those close to her, simple acquaintances and Sabine alter as time passes. As you read this it is only obvious to a point. When you look back on it you get a sense of just how much change there is. I found this both intriguing and in some ways difficult. Watching the consequences of Meggie’s life spiralling out of control is disconcerting or worse. The fact that I can say that simply shows how well this is written I guess. It’s worth bearing in mind that this may be a challenging read for some people. The combination of Meggie’s mental state with drugs, sex and alcohol may make some people uncomfortable. I found it managed to feel deeply personal and real while almost being casual.

The ending of Nightshift was good for me and it left some questions about the whole subject of obsession. I’d like to read more from this author.

Do we ever really get over obsession?

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review