'I am Margaret Saunders... call me the eavesdropper...'
No-one tells Margaret anything openly - what has happened to her father, the cancer taking over her mother's body and why her grandmother starts seeing faces pressing through invisible cracks in her bedroom wall. So, with an intuitive sense that uncovering the truth will free the household from its bondage, Margaret starts hiding in cupboards and under beds. But as an 'over-imaginative' 14 year old who is, in her family's view, refusing to grow up, she is acutely vulnerable to feeling that she is in some way responsible for what she uncovers. Set in Guyana in midst of the 1960s racial disturbances, Web of Secrets makes suggestive connections between divisions in the family and the nation. It embroiders a dazzling fabric of whispered family conversations, fantasy and Guyanese folklore. It warns of the psychic hazards of trying to suppress the past and proclaims the redemptive power of truth in the process of healing.
Chris Searle writes: 'Harris is a writer with a poetic flow of language that is truly distinctive and full of potent meaning. As Margaret listens under tables, behind doors and in all the concealed places of the large colonial house that her grandmother sees cracking and disintegrating around her, she becomes the only cohesive force of a family decaying into fragments, each part severing its connections with any other.
'It is the Guyanese era of the 60s. Anti-communist tales of terror, sudden fearful migrations and the transition following the end of British colonialism form the external anxieties for a family locked into complexes of race and elitism. The interior shadows the exterior as illness, violence and insanity grip the family, whose house becomes - like the colony itself - a prison of consciousness and "unhappy cage" of terrifying self-doubt and distrust in others.
'Yet the voice of reason and prophecy breaks out from the surface insanity of Margaretís grandmother. "We inhabit a strange web of fictions replete with family histories rooted in violence... rage... incest... sorrow - betrayals," she confesses. But, as Margaret has learned, and the engrossed reader too through Harrisís startling and mesmeric novel with its promise of redemption, both personally and socially, "We have something within us that can change the pain and violence and suffering into something rich and glorious".'
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Denise Harris was born in Guyana, the daughter of the novelist Wilson Harris. She works for UNICEF in New York. She is also a photographer.