The Feast – Margaret Kennedy

Margaret Kennedy’s The Feast is the first novel of hers I’ve read, and also a novel I was tempted to buy because of its sumptuous cover. I read it during my holiday in Prague and Cesky Krumlov which was kind of fitting since the novel is set in a seaside hotel which brings together a motlew crew of characters who are on vacation. Luckily, the content inside was wonderful too and I’m eager to explore more of her work particularly The Constant Nymph and Troy Chimneys both of which I have.

With its combination of wit, social commentary and mystery, The Feast by Margaret Kennedy is a terrific novel; an excellent upstairs-downstairs drama and comedy set in Cornwall post the Second World War featuring a seaside hotel in danger of being buried, an eccentric ensemble cast with hidden secrets, and the high voltage interactions and tensions between them.

The book begins with a prologue where Reverend Seddon pays his regular annual visit to Reverend Samuel Bott of St Sody, North Cornwall. It is a time of relaxation for both the priests, enjoying the fruits of their friendship and indulging in their hobbies. But this particular holiday turns out to be different because Seddon much to his chagrin realises that Bott has to write a sermon for a funeral. It’s not something that Bott can get out of either given the strangeness of events leading up to the tragedy, the details of which he proceeds to narrate to Seddon.

The facts are thus – The Pendizack Manor Hotel lies buried in a mound of rubble after a huge mass of cliff collapses on it. Seven guests perish, one of whom is Dick Siddal, the owner of the hotel, while the others survive. At that point, the identities of the casualties as well as the survivors are not revealed to the reader, and that in essence forms the mystery element of the plot. We are told that some months ago before this tragedy, a mine had exploded, and cracks had developed in the mass of cliff over the hotel, although the hotel at that point was unaffected. A survey man, subsequently, examines those cracks, is convinced that it is unsafe, and conveys his findings in a letter to Dick Siddal who doesn’t bother to respond.

Thus, Reverend Bott is now busy scribbling a sermon for the funeral; he describes these developments as an Act of God, but it could very well have been called an Act of Man, given the owner’s irresponsibility in not taking action when required.

After the prologue, the reader is then taken back to a week earlier, from whereon the book charts the arrival of the guests at the Pendizack Manor Hotel, its other inhabitants, as well as the chain of events leading up to the tragedy in question.

We now come to the principal characters of this tale. First and foremost are the Siddals who own the Pendizack Manor Hotel and reside there with their children Gerry, Duff, and Robin. Mrs Siddal is an overworked woman who does most of the heavy lifting concerning the management of the hotel, the guests, as well as preparation of daily meals. Her husband Dick Siddal for the most part loiters around in his boot-hole refusing any form of work and responsibility, and when he does make an appearance in front of his guests, it is to deliver his off-kilter opinions on a variety of topics. Dick Siddal displays a keen perceptive mind and is a man of strange, singular worldviews but he could not be bothered about the daily working of the hotel, a fact that plays a crucial role in his downfall.

But he enjoyed the sound of his own voice, and nobody was likely to interrupt him. ‘I daresay,’ he said, ‘that mankind is protected and sustained by undeserved suffering; by all those millions of helpless people who pay for the evil we do and who shield us simply by being there, as Lot was in the doomed city. If any community of people were to be purely evil, were to have no element of innocence among them at all, the earth would probably open and swallow them up. Such a community would split the moral atom.’ 

As far as the children are concerned, Mrs Siddal is partial towards Duff and Robin, the apples of her eyes, and she has ambitions of getting them into top-notch colleges. Of Gerry with his stocky build and propensity to bore her, she remains a tad contemptuous (“Of her three sons he was the most loving and least loved”), and yet she heavily depends upon Gerry to help around the hotel and bring in the moolah that will fund Robin and Duff’s education.

We are also introduced to the domestic help – the housekeeper Miss Ellis is a spiteful woman prone to poking her nose into other people’s affairs and gossiping about them, with a remarkable flair to shirk her duties. Then there’s the conscientious and straight-talking Nancibel who stays with her extended family nearby and drops into the hotel every day to do the bulk of the work given Miss Ellis’s inclination to avoid it.  Very soon, tensions begin to simmer and erupt between the two women given their contrasting personalities and general attitude towards work.

We then come to the guests. There’s Lady Gifford, her husband Sir Henry Gifford, and their children Hebe, Caroline, and twin boys Luke and Michael. Lady Gifford grapples with poor health, confined to the bed for most of their stay, while her children run wild. The wildest of the lot is Hebe, an adopted child, and who is aware of her adopted status that grieves her greatly. Hebe’s actions often shock Henry Gifford who struggles to bring her under control, a task made difficult by the fact that his wife does not see things his way. Cracks in the relationship between husband and wife are also evident – Henry Gifford believes himself to be a man of principles and cannot fathom his wife’s shallow personality and her craving for the finer things in life.  

Next up is Mrs Cove, the most disturbing character in the book, and her three daughters Blanche, Beatrix, and Maud. Mrs Cove is a cheerless, strict woman who rules her meek daughters with an iron fist. She’s deeply stingy with an ascetic worldview, flaunts the family’s poor circumstances which she believes gives her the right to be acquisitive, and often denies her daughters the simplest of pleasures. There’s something about Mrs Cove’s actions that is quite sinister, particularly when it comes to the bizarre treatment of her daughters, her ulterior motive is gradually revealed to the reader later on. Blanche, Beatrix, and Maud don’t love their mother, but they fear her. However, while they remain deprived of material comforts and bear the brunt of their mother’s cruelty, what sustains them is their imagination – rich, vital, and vivid. The three girls strike up a friendship with the Gifford children and are enamoured by them, their wealth, and their general appearance of well-being. One of their greatest wishes is the desire to do something good for the residents of Pendizack Manor, something like hosting a feast – the central event that lends the novel its name, and is held on the very same day that the landslide strikes.

Then there’s the morally dubious writer Anne Lechane and her chauffeur-secretary Bruce who is kind of a reluctant toy boy. Anne has some kind of hold over Bruce forcing him to remain indebted to her. But the other reason that compels him to work for Anne is his aspiration to become a writer himself, although these state of affairs greatly complicate his budding romance with Nancibel. We are also introduced to the belligerent and controlling Canon Wraxton, notorious for picking up verbal fights at the drop of a hat and making scenes much to the embarrassment and terror of his daughter Evangeline.

Rounding off this oddball lot are the bereaved couple Mr and Mrs Paley, who are initially reserved and largely keep to themselves. The Paleys lost their daughter several years ago, but it’s a grief that runs deep and the two haven’t entirely gotten over it. What’s more, theirs is a shaky marriage, with not much scope for communicating and navigating their personal tragedy. Indeed, at one point Mrs Paley driven to the brink of suicide, has an epiphany, and thereby resolves to take charge of her life beginning with helping the residents of the hotel in any way that she can. And so her role transforms to that of an agony aunt; certain members confess to her their hopes, secrets, and desires whether she offers any advice or not. She particularly makes a big difference in the way Evangeline’s life takes a turn for the better.

Each guest had retired, as an animal retires with a bone to the back of its cage, to chew over some single obsession.

Thus, as the novel progresses various developments occur along the way – a series of petty squabbles between the guests, the blossoming of two romances, a police visit, a near-drowning incident, a stolen artifact, and some other elements that spice up the story as it reaches its inevitable finale.

The Feast excels in that through a rather engaging tale it explores a slew of themes such as greed, evil, sloth, class wars, neglect, bereavement, unexpected friendships, and even romance. The introduction to the novel talks about how the various characters epitomize the Seven Deadly Sins, an interpretation that did not occur to me, although a couple of them are obvious (greed and sloth).

Greed drives the actions of the frightening Mrs Cove, a sin that is also central to Lady Gifford’s wish to relocate to a place where she can avoid paying taxes. On the pedestal of sloth sits Dick Siddal whose actions, or should we say non-action leads to the landslide that buries seven of the hotel guests. Anne Lechene is the embodiment of lechery given her unhealthy designs on Bruce as well as one of the Siddal men, Colonel Wraxton with his bombastic temperament stands for wrath, and so on. The class differences and the characters’ widely differing views on this topic are revealed through myriad heated exchanges between them as they argue about inequality, the rights of the working class, and the entitlement of the upper class among other things. Neglect is also another theme that comes to the fore exemplified by the wild behaviour of the Gifford children, the shabby appearance of the Cove girls, as well as Dick Siddal’s laziness when it comes to the safety of the hotel. It’s a novel of darkness and light, alternately showcasing the darker side of human nature with its generous side, as well as moments of subtle comedy with pure evil.  

Displaying a sharp, astute vision, Kennedy’s writing is top-notch as she weaves in elements of a social satire and morality fable with those of a thriller. Her gimlet-eyed gaze on the foibles and failures of her finely etched characters make both the endearing as well as the horrible ones pretty memorable.  In a nutshell, this is a wonderful novel with an array of rich themes and interpretations; I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Highly recommended!


Salka Valka – Haldór Laxness (tr. Philip Roughton)

It was the Mookse and Gripes podcast in December 2022 that finally gave me the impetus to pick up Salka Valka; it was featured in Trevor’s Top Five of the year. It’s the first Haldór Laxness novel I’ve read and based on how wonderful it was, won’t be my last. This is also my contribution to #NordicFINDS23 hosted by AnnaBookBel.


In the opening pages of Salka Valka, a coastal steamer stops at the port of a small, remote fishing village called Oseyri. Surrounded by looming mountains and fjords, the village is now in the throes of deepening winter, relentlessly hounded by driving snow. Oseyri is such a nondescript, isolated village (“you get the impression that nothing in the world could be more insignificant and meaningless than such a small village under such high mountains”), that a couple of idle tourists aboard the steamer at the time of its docking, can’t help wondering about it – “How do people live in such a place? And how do they die?”

Nobody can envisage a life here, but on that cold, bleak winter’s night two figures emerge from the steamer – a woman called Sigurlina and her 11-year old daughter Salvor (Salka Valka). Sigurlina and Salka Valka have made this journey from the North, certain circumstances having driven them away, and while Reykjavik seems to be their final destination, Sigurlina, reduced to a state of penury, cannot afford the cost of the trip further.

Oseyri, then, becomes her destination for the time being, she hopes to find a job that will help her make enough money to embark on the journey south. However, fate as we shall see has other plans…

Thus begins this wondrous, 552-paged, ambitious novel of Salka Valka, an immersive, brilliant, often harrowing tale of a beleaguered fishing community and the indomitable spirit of a woman who prides on her independence and strives to improve their lot.


Salka Valka is divided into four sections, each section comprising two parts. In the first section, we meet Salka when she is an 11-year old girl, defiant and spirited even at that young age. She accompanies Sigurlina when she knocks at several doors, desperate to find work and in this way, along with her the reader is also introduced to some of the prominent inhabitants of the village. The foremost is Jóhann Bogesen, a wealthy merchant who has a monopoly on the village’s fishing operations (the community’s primary source of livelihood), while also managing the store; the villagers’ employment status is defined by the opening of an account with Bogesen. Sigurlina fails to find employment there as a maid and her subsequent visits to the church Dean and the village doctor also yield no results. Mostly viewed as strangers, the dean and the doctor remain suspicious of her background, it is alleged that Salka is an illegitimate child (which is true), and consequently turn both mother and daughter away.

Little wonder then that Sigurlina finds some solace in the Salvation Army, its religious teachings and chanting re-ignite her faith in Christianity. The village church looks down upon the Salvation Army branding it a heathen place, but it is perhaps a tad ironic that while both espouse the tenets of Christianity, it is the Salvation Army that welcomes Sigurlina in a way that the formal church does not.

Meanwhile, Salka Valka’s fiery persona is evident right from the very beginning as she hurls insults at Argantyr, Bogesen’s son, while at their palatial home (when Sigurlina is looking for work). In a village whose personality is largely shaped by fish and fishing, it is Salka who boldly approaches Jóhann Bogesen for the purpose of opening an account with him and demands to be given a job washing fish. Concerned that she is too young, the villagers are, nevertheless, struck by her will of steel, and she soon begins working with them because all said and done extra hands are needed for the job.

It’s also in the first section that we encounter two men who will have an important bearing on how the story unfolds and will play a pivotal role in how Salka’s destiny shapes up. First is the creepy sailor Steinþor, a raging alcoholic prone to destructive fits of anger. Steinþor helps Sigurlina find lodgings when no one else does and immediately begins an affair with her much to Salka’s chagrin. Salka also meets Arnaldur, a dreamy man, hired as her tutor for a brief period. Arnaldur lives with his irascible grandfather and an upright aunt; his mother has abandoned the family and his father is now a cultivated man settled abroad. Arnaldur is tormented by dreams of his mother which he confides to Salka, and regales her with visions of alternate worlds more captivating to him than his current circumstances.  

Part Two forwards to several years later, and Salka is now a young woman, self-reliant, living in her own house with a share in a fishing boat. She is also instrumental in forming a fisherman’s union successful in negotiating a wage hike. Despite her loathing for Steinþor Steinsson, Salka is not averse to the lure of money and there are rumors that payments received from America (notably from Steinþor) have helped fund the purchase of her home. In that sense, she is reasonably well-off in a village, where most others still struggle financially in their daily lives.

Politics, revolutionary ideals, and socio-economic issues make up for a bulk of the second section as the largely ignorant working class of Oseyri begins to get a whiff of the scent of Bolshevism, while the capitalists in the village resist its growing influence.


Salka Valka, the titular character, is a remarkable heroine and a force to reckon with in Oseyri. Bold and enterprising, she is fiercely independent right from an early age, and a source of financial support to her mother who gradually sinks into despondency as her relationships fail. During her teenage years, Salka is treated like an outsider in Oseyri, often left out, and constantly humiliated by the jeers and insults of peers but she soldiers on. She is ugly when measured against the standards of conventional beauty, tall and strong, awkward even and often naïve when it comes to relationships, but sharp and intelligent in matters relating to business and money. Salka has a fraught, complex relationship with Steinþor, a man she abhors who nearly rapes her in the first section, yet she has no qualms about accepting money from him, because she understands the value of currency.

Then there’s Sigurlina who cuts a sorrowful figure, succumbing to men especially in her yearnings for love and support, and Steinþor who has a towering, disturbing presence in the lives of both women, Sigurlina wishes to marry him despite their abusive relationship. Increasingly moody and violent particularly when sozzled with drink, Steinþor desires Salka, and often disappears for long periods on sea when things get too hot for him in the village. Steinpor has grand ambitions of uprooting Bogesen’s unshakeable position but no one takes him seriously when he is so regularly drunk.

Arnaldur Björnsson casts a spell over Salka with his “face shining out of the darkness of the night, radiant with belief in another world.” Hired as Salka’s tutor, the two share a close bond which waxes and wanes over the course of the novel. Educated and immersed in books, a passionate revolutionary and an effective orator, Arnaldur’s communistic fervor awakens the interest of the Oseyri workers to the tenets of communism, but while his intensity as a rabble rouser is electrifying, he does not seem to be cut out for the execution of his ideology or the grunt work that it involves. Salka often wonders whether Arnaldur’s interest in communism is fuelled by his need to always argue and fight his enemies, only to lose interest once there’s nothing left to fight for.  

And last but not the least is Jóhann Bogesen, the wealthy merchant, who runs the show, and pretty much controls the economic pulse of the village. The Oseyri residents need him for their survival and at the same time despise him because they are at his mercy.


One of the core themes that the novel addresses is the ugly side of abject poverty and the struggles of the working class. This is represented by the pathetic living conditions of Oseyri’s inhabitants – steeped in debt and dirt, riddled with illness and death, often at the mercy of natural calamities and the indifference of humanity. This is a deeply religious community, but the burden and worries of day to day living, not surprisingly, also fuel a wavering of faith and a hopeless resignation towards their doomed fate which God and the church does nothing to alleviate.  

Part Two of the novel assumes political overtones; the plight of the working class becomes the foundation for politics bringing in its wake sharp contrast in viewpoints. At the time when the novel is set, Iceland was part of the Kingdom of Denmark, while at the same time Russia was riding on the wave of communism and Bolshevism, the winds of this ideology blowing across the rest of Europe as well. In Salka Valka, these varying ideologies are epitomized by its central characters – Bogesen is the capitalist and a proponent of individual initiative, Arnaldur is the passionate Bolshevist and a budding revolutionary, while there are others who believe in self-determination and express a wish to break away from Denmark as well.

This novel was originally published in the early 1930s but Laxness’ stellar rendering of the intricate working of Iceland’s economy and the various cogs in the wheel (Oseyri being the hub) that support it has striking parallels with the financial crisis that crippled the nation in 2008. The rippling effects of union strikes, the ceasing of production, bad debts piling up with banks highlights a capitalist system where the fortunes of the wealthy are dented but pale in comparison to the plight of the poor, who caught between a rock and hard place, suffer the hardest.

Through debates and arguments between the principal characters, Laxness brings to the fore the complexity of myriad philosophies at play, always highlighting both sides of the coin – Bolshevism Vs Capitalism, independent initiative Vs mass production and community living, and so on.

Salka Valka is also in many ways a feminist tale. Salka’s zeal to lead her life on her own terms is strong not only because of her inherent personality but also because deep down she abhors her mother’s dependence on men to survive. That women have to bear the brunt of misogyny and grapple with shame and ostracization from the misdeeds of men is also explored.   

The novel also lays bare the widening gulf between the rich and poor in terms of money and opportunities. The Bogesens live in lavish comfort in Oseyri, and the merchant’s children enjoy the privilege of education in Copenhagen giving them an air of elegance and sophistication if not empathy, while Salka and her lot remains ignorant of the world outside, inhabiting a narrow space where nothing much happens and the only preoccupations centre around daily fishing activities.


In a novel replete with fully realised characters, Salka Valka also pulsates with a vivid sense of place – the mountains and fjords among which Oseyri is nestled, lends it a remote, distant quality; a place whose fate is determined by the vagaries of nature, the relentless brunt of thunderstorms and stark, severe winters.


Salka Valka, then, is a big, beautiful novel, expansive in its scope and incredibly absorbing. The first section is particularly haunting when depicting the plight of Oseyri’s villagers and workers crushed by poverty and barely making ends meet. The unraveling of Sigurlina’s fate is also imminently sad as she is engulfed by hopelessness and unbearable disappointment from the men she falls in love with.

Salka’s forceful spirit combined with her awkwardness and heightened sense of isolation during her early years in Oseyri are also strikingly depicted, as are the gamut of emotions she experiences with Arnaldur that oscillate between friendship and kinship to scorn and jealousy. Not to mention the increasing hatred she feels for Steinþor who lusts for her and bewilders her with his poetic fervor.

Part One is intense in the way the dynamics between the central characters play out and is in that sense more personal, while in Part Two that intensity takes a different path as the focus becomes more political.

This is entirely a third person narrative and one can’t help get a feeling that Laxness is an omniscient narrator particularly when he makes certain observations about his characters, his views subtly disguised in wit and comedy.


Epic in scope and ahead of its times, Salka Valka, then, is a simmering cauldron of various delectable ingredients – a coming-of-age tale, a statement on world politics, a strange beguiling love story, and an unforgettable female lead. Highly recommended!

Elena Knows – Claudia Piñeiro (tr. Frances Riddle)

Elena Knows is a forceful, thought-provoking, unconventional crime novel where Claudia Piñeiro effectively explores a range of social concerns such as illness, caregiving, crippling bureaucracy and a woman’s choice regarding her body.

When the book opens, Elena, a woman in her sixties, is home alone waiting for the clock to strike ten. Elena suffers from Parkinson’s, a progressively devastating illness, characterized by loss of control over everyday movements.

And she wonders if Parkinson’s is masculine or feminine, because even though the name sounds masculine it’s still an illness, and an illness is something feminine. Just like a misfortune. Or a curse. And so she thinks she should address it as Herself, because when she thinks about it, she thinks ‘fucking whore illness.’ And a whore is a she, not a he. If Herself will excuse my language.

Elena is now entirely dependent on Levodopa, a drug routinely given to increase dopamine, a critical chemical in the body, a messenger of sorts that carries signals from the brain to the limbs.

And he said, an illness of the central nervous system that degrades, or mutates, or changes, or modifies the nerve cells in such a way that they stop producing dopamine. And then Elena learned that when her brain orders the feet to move, for example, the order only reaches her feet if the dopamine takes it there.

But that’s not the only matter troubling Elena. The real burden weighing heavy on her soul is the sudden, recent death of her daughter Rita. On a rainy afternoon, Rita was mysteriously and inexplicably found hanging from the bell tower in the local church. The police classify her death as suicide and close the case with no inclination to pursue the matter further.

But, Elena refuses to accept the police’s version. She’s convinced it is murder and pushes the inspector to do more, to interview potential suspects so that the true facts of Rita’s death can come to light. Because there is one aspect of her daughter’s personality that Elena knows could not have caused Rita to voluntarily visit this local place of worship. So terrified was Rita of being struck by lightning that she always chose to stay away from the church in stormy weather. And it was raining on that fateful day. That explains Elena’s conviction that Rita could not have possibly entered the bell tower (“it’s the town lightning rod”) of her own accord, someone clearly dragged her there and killed her.

The local police indulge her by meeting her regularly but don’t really take her seriously. Elena finds no solace in religion either especially since the priest insists that she put the matter to rest and move on.

When it dawns on her that there is now only one avenue left, Elena braces herself to locate Isabel, a woman Rita had “helped” twenty years ago but had lost touch since then. Elena’s mission is simple – she is hoping that by calling in an old debt, she gets the help required in catching Rita’s murderer. But given Elena’s illness, finding Isabel is a challenge akin to climbing a steep mountain. She would have to walk a few blocks to the station, ride the train, and after that either walk or taxi to Isabel’s home, hoping against hope that Isabel hasn’t relocated in all that time. It’s a game of chance; yet, Elena is resolved and feels herself equal to the task. Hence, she patiently waits for the clock to strike ten so that she can consume her next pill of the day giving her the fillip to embark on her arduous journey.

That’s the central premise of the story and I don’t want to reveal anything more. But as the novel progresses we are given a glimpse into the tenuous relationship between Elena and Rita, more colour on Rita’s belligerent personality and the crucial encounter between Rita and Isabel twenty years ago, an incident whose repercussions Elena will be compelled to deal with now. The chapters alternate between the present where Elena sets off on her journey, and the past which shines a light on the life she shared with Rita.

What makes Elena Knows so compelling is the richness of themes explored, a gamut of hard-hitting social issues. First of all, the book is an unflinching portrayal of a debilitating disease, a hard-edged look at the daily struggles of performing commonplace activities, and the loss of dignity that it involves. Among many things, the illness completely alters Elena’s perception of time, which is now not governed by the clock but pills that she has to take at hourly intervals. Once the effects of the pill wear off, Elena can’t move till she takes her next dose. Her neck perpetually droops and restricts her gaze to a certain height, and her mouth is always dribbling.  She understandably resents being helpless but is painfully aware that she has no choice. And yet, does she still have the will to live on despite her failing body?

Then there is Rita, her daughter, a dominant force in the book, even if she is now dead. Elena and Rita share a love-hate relationship. Given that both women are headstrong, fights are a regular feature when they are together, frequently hurling cruel words at each other.

They repeated the same routine everyday. The walk, the whip cracks, the distance, and finally the silence. The words changed, the reasons behind the fights were different, but the cadence, the tone, the routine, never varied…

As Elena’s disease progresses, the burden of caring for her falls on Rita, who fights through her teeth to ensure health insurance covers her mother’s mounting medical bills. This aspect of the novel brings two critical problems to the fore – the challenges of caregiving and the tediousness of having to deal with seemingly insurmountable red tape. Both these issues highlight how lack of requisite support, both practical and emotional, can make it hard for the caregiver to cope, paving the way for anxiety and depression.

Piñeiro’s bio mentions that she is an active figure in the fight for legalization of abortion in Argentina, so it’s not surprising that she also addresses this topic head-on in the novel, how every woman has the right to make her own choice regarding her body and she employs Rita’s actions as a vehicle to explore this point. As readers are made privy to a slew of Rita’s eccentricities, we are told how she avoids walking past the midwife Olga’s house and always crosses the pavement when she approaches her place. Olga also performs abortions, a fact that Rita finds hard to digest. Rita is a woman driven by her own convictions with not much respect for other people’s choices. She has fixed ideas on moral code and behaviour and an unwelcome aggressiveness in pushing her views on others. 

Roberto and Rita were united by their convictions more than anything else, that way they both had of stating the most broad, arbitrary, clichéd notions as absolute truths. Convictions about how another person should experience something they themselves had never experienced, how people should walk through life along the roads they’d walked down and the ones they hadn’t, issuing decrees about what should and shouldn’t be done.

Ultimately, both Elena and Rita are flawed, unlikeable characters (Rita, I thought, was even worse, particularly for being a busybody), but it’s hard not to feel sorry for their plight accentuated by the difficulties of Elena’s illness. As the novel hurtles towards its conclusion, Elena is forced to confront some hard truths and a possibly growing realization that her earlier opinions about many things might not hold much water. Can she bring herself to accept that at her age?

In a nutshell, Elena Knows is a riveting, tightly constructed novel that turns the crime genre on its head by providing social commentary on pressing issues that remain relevant even today. That she manages to do so by not being too preachy or sentimental only enhances the book’s power.