Nightshift is a novel about obsession and chasing a life that might not really exist. Meggie has a humdrum day job in an office, a boyfriend who wants to move in together, and is trying to do a literature degree, but when she meets mysterious Sabine at work, she starts to want something else. Changing her hours to the night shift as Sabine does, Meggie tries to adjust to the new world, with a different set of coworkers and a chance to get closer to Sabine, but will she find herself or keep losing things?
Ladner puts a slightly different spin on the ‘female obsession that may or may not be friendship and/or sexual’ story, using the concept of the night shift, a slightly otherworldly London, and two main characters not from England. The novel, though short, moves through different phases, from Meggie’s initial need to get closer to distant Sabine, then throwing away elements of her past life, and then what happens as Meggie tries to live this new night life. There’s a vague framing device looking back with hindsight which brings the conclusion to the book, but doesn’t answer every question, which suits the narrative’s style. The atmosphere created works well, at times drug-fuelled and occasionally moving quickly over some of the more self-destructive moments, but with a lingering melancholy especially by the ending.
What let down the book a bit for me was the fact it was very predictable and felt too similar to other books in which a young woman becomes obsessed with another woman. It was refreshing that Nightshift went further to explore sexuality and Meggie’s attraction to Sabine, as often that element is left unspoken or as something that awkwardly comes up once and is then passed over, but the general narrative arc felt all too expected and a lot of the later ‘revelations’ about Sabine just felt like staples of the subgenre.
An enjoyable short read with a dark current underneath, Nightshift is another voice in the conversation about female friendship, sexuality, and obsession, but doesn’t really add anything new to it. There’s some interesting thoughts to be had around the way it presents London as the setting for the story, with different areas suggesting different things, and it’s a novel that’ll probably appeal most to people who like both the obsession element and novels that comment on London itself.