Review: Broken Light by Joanne Harris (2023)

Title: Broken Light
Author: Joanne Harris
Pages: 443
Genre: Fiction
Stand-alone/Series: Stand-alone.
Year of Release: 2023
Publisher: Orion
Review Copy via the Publisher

Bernie Ingram is forty-nine, menopausal, and lonely. Bernie feels herself growing less visible, less surprising, and less lovable with every passing day. Until the murder of a woman in a local park unlocks a series of childhood memories and, with them, a power that she has suppressed for all her adult life.

Until now.

When a woman finally breaks, watch out for the pieces…

I loved Broken Light. Harris takes the familiar life story of a woman getting pregnant too soon, settling down, and slowly becoming invisible but adds the rage of King’s Carrie being released at menopause.

Does Bernie seek revenge for all the women that men have wronged? She could, quite easily, because with great power comes great responsibility, doesn’t it?

Everyone has a choice, and when Berinie Ingram’s power reappears, she believes she will make better choices and control her powers. But life doesn’t work like that; there are consequences to interfering.

Harris demonstrates how easily women are diminished, sidelined, used and abused. As Bernie’s power grows, her rage is unleashed, as do the strength of the voices in her head that dare her to go further, to take more extreme actions.

Social media is ingrained into so much of our lives, and it’s integral to Bernie’s story. It might feel a little alien if you don’t spend time interacting on social media.

Does Bernie (via Harris) focus too much on the impact of social media discourse?

I did find it a little too open and maybe a little too laboured in the points it was making, but many corners of social media focus on convincing people that one group or another is the source of all their problems.

The format is mostly Bernie’s LiveJournal Entries with the occasional linked extract from her childhood friend’s new book on Bernie (published the year after the events Bernie describes). So it is going to reflect Bernie’s thoughts and feelings on things that are central to her and her world.

I can imagine this will frustrate or put off some readers and might cause a little Marmite-like reaction.

For me, Broken Light is utterly devastating but contains so many shards of hope. If every person could pivot slightly, the world can be such a better place.

Why haven’t I said much about the plot? #spoilers. I will say it made me cry and left me more hopeful than when I started it.

Read it and see if you feel the same.

Rating: 5/5 Date: 6 May 23

Additional Information

There is more insight and a Q&A on Joanne Harris’s website. Warning it does contain spoilers, so you may want to look after you’ve read it.