The Reluctant Voyeur: the spectator and the 'abject' in Gillian Mears' 'Fineflour'

Heather Neilson


In one of the stories in Fineflour, the adolescent Stacey Coope witnesses the disillusioning scene of her hero, Hugh Mann, verbally abusing his weeping father. From her favourite vantage-point on the footbridge over the Fineflour river, Stacey can watch the family drama in the Mann kitchen, as clearly as if their window were a television screen. At one point in Gillian Mears' novel, The Mint Lawn, the protagonist, the pubescent Clementine, watches in embarrassment from her hiding-place as her mother masturbates. In Mears' earlier collection of stories, Ride a Cock Horse, yet another teenage girl inadvertently sees something 'shameful': walking into the bedroom of her friend, an ageing jockey, she finds him engaged in sexual intercourse underneath an enormous oleaginous woman. Mears' fiction is full of such instances, in which people, usually children, see something which they 'should not see', or which they may not have wished to see, and in which those observed are unaware of the spectator's presence.

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