Why? She’d rather not get into it, seeing as how it’s horribly painful, but she supposes she really should. You need to hang her, but first you’d better understand why.
It’s the early 20th century, presumably before 1914 because nobody mentions the war. Briony is a young witch who lives in Swampsea with her parson father, her neuroatypical twin sister, Rose, and their new lodger, Eldric, whose father has decided it’d be best if his son lives with religious folk following his expulsion from university. Briony used to have a beloved stepmother, too, but she died a few months ago. The coroner ruled it suicide, but Briony is certain Stepmother was murdered.
Not that she can talk about it with anyone. Briony’s life is built of secrets. The secret of Stepmother’s death; of the terrible thing Briony did to Rose; of her relationship with the Old Ones who dwell in the swamp; of her past as a Wolf Girl; of her inability to be a real person, or to love anyone at all.
Briony isn’t a girl. Not really. She’s a witch and a monster and the cause of all her family’s woes.
Except there’s a dramatic difference between what Briony tells us about herself and what we observe in her. Part of it’s a bit of a cheat when you experience the audio instead of the prose edition, though. Had I, a first time prose reader, been charged with imagining Briony’s voice, I’d have taken her early declarations of inhumanity and used them to cast her as a flat speaker; someone who relates the truth without ever fully feeling it. I’m sure my mental delivery would’ve soon shifted in response to other textual clues, but the audiobook delivered a rather different experience. Susan Duerden’s impassioned performance immediately told me that Briony is not only an unreliable narrator (something I’d have assumed anyways, given my well-documented distrust for first person narrators), but also a possessed of deep emotional reserves.
It’s a hell of an auditory hook; a girl who claims to feel nothing, but whose voice tells us she feels everything.