Terror vision: fear and distrust in 7/7 fallout
Jennie Ensor’s debut novel, an intriguing psychological thriller, reflects on the aftermath of the capital’s worst terrorist attack
05 May, 2017 — By Peter Gruner
Jennie Ensor. Photo: Claire Tucker
IT’S the aftermath of the capital’s worst terrorist attack, 7/7, and nothing can ever be the same again. In leafy Hampstead a young woman, Georgie, is trying to make sense of it all.
Writer Jennie Ensor recreates an atmosphere of fear and distrust in the capital, particularly in normally friendly, cosmopolitan Finsbury Park, for her first novel, Blind Side, an intriguing psychological thriller.
The co-ordinated suicide bombing on the tube and a bus left 52 people dead and 700 injured. Summing up her bafflement, she writes: “How are such things possible in a country where we queue for everything and complain about the weather?”
Her lead character, marketing executive Georgie, must also take stock of her life following that fateful day, Thursday July 7, 2005.
In an interview with this newspaper Highgate resident Jennie said: “Who can ever forget it? Suddenly London and particularly the tube felt unsafe. Unfortunately nothing, it seems, has changed. Today there are still times when we might feel threatened and unsafe.
“The book is set in Camden and Islington. It’s an area I know really well.
“On one hand it’s a love story. But because of the air of unreality and atmosphere of fear it also deals with worries about how much you can really know someone.”
The story begins with the end of a long-running platonic relationship between Georgie and her best friend, Camden Lock-based architect Julian. They have known each since university and help each other overcome relationship break-ups and sadness and heartbreak.
Then one night both are drunk and Julian professes a secret love for Georgie. He asks her to go to bed with him and reluctantly she agrees. But the experience ruins their friendship and Georgie realises she can no longer hang out with him.
Soon after, Georgie meets Nikolai, an ex-soldier recently arrived from Russia. He works on a building site and despite her misgivings, she can’t resist him.
Julian, jealous of his perceived rival, struggles to deal with Georgie’s rejection. Georgie begins to realise how deeply wartime incidents in Chechnya have affected Nikolai, and wonders what terrible secret the Russian is hiding from her.
On the day of the London terror attack Georgie is at work looking at her emails. “The usual purr of activity has stopped. I look up to see seven or eight people gathered around a desk, craning their necks to look at a computer screen. I go over. They’re watching a news report.
“…explosions at Liverpool Street, King’s Cross…”
A hush falls across the office. Then a phone on a nearby desk rings, followed by another and another until it appears everyone is talking on their phones and mobiles. Parents, family and friends, all deeply concerned about loved ones in London are ringing or emailing from all over the world to make sure they are safe.”
Outside in the street Georgie observes: “I see my own sense of shock and disbelief in other people’s faces. The reality is so evident, though. In a crowd at a taxi stand I glimpse a man in a suit, bandages wrapped around his head.
“A florist, a woman, swears into her phone. Her eyes are reddened and teary. She hasn’t noticed that the bag at her feet has fallen over, spilling kiwi fruit across the pavement.”
Later on with Nikolai she’s aware of a new level of distrust on people’s faces. “The woman behind the counter in the café stares at Nikolai as if she thinks that any second he might reach for a detonator hidden in his back pocket. Perhaps it’s his dark looks. Apart from that, many people are jumping at their own shadows.”
• Blind Side. By Jennie Ensor, Unbound, £9.99. It is also available on Amazon and at Daunts in South End Road, NW3.