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Abbey Lay

Lead Us Not

Lead Us Not

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An emotionally charged novel of female friendship, for readers of Elena Ferrante and Diana Reid.

‘When we spoke, I never knew what Olive would reveal to me. There were nights where she would lie next to me and pour herself out into the darkness, and others where it seemed she was hardly there at all.’

Millie is in her final year at a Catholic girls’ school, subdued by the conformity of her life and her parents’ quiet pain. But when her schoolmate Olive moves in next door, it marks the beginning of an intoxicating friendship that changes everything. In all the ways Millie feels unsure and half-formed, Olive, an aspiring actor from a devoutly Catholic family, seems at ease with her place in the world.

On the precipice of freedom, the two young women seize nights out and a school retreat as opportunities to further their own increasingly uncertain ends. Olive urges Millie on in her sexual encounters, but Millie is only becoming more consumed by Olive. When they’re not staying up all night talking, they’re watching each other from their bedroom windows – their selves are becoming blurred, their lives intimately mirrored.

That makes it all the more excruciating when, seemingly out of nowhere, Olive cuts off all contact. For all her efforts, Millie cannot understand what’s changed between them. Has she missed something? Or was their friendship, for Olive, just another performance?
An emotionally charged novel of expectation, compulsion and desire, Lead Us Not charts the unseen currents of tension and control that shape a friendship.

‘Lay’s prose is as clean and assured as a writer with many more books to her name. This could have been the beginning of either a great love story or a bitter rivalry, which is exactly what kept me turning the page.’ Allee Richards

'Vividly captures the irresistible obsessiveness of first (queer) love and the claustrophobic impact of internalised homophobia . . . An extremely strong debut that reveals the inner life of an adolescent in love with rare mastery and grace.' Laura Pettenuzzo, Meanjin

'The intoxicating push and pull between them will be recognised by anyone who has ever been a teenage girl (or devoured a Ferrante novel) – with an added layer of sapphic yearning that’s exquisitely drawn.' Steph Harmon, The Guardian

'Erotically charged . . . the push and pull between the girls rings true, and the space between desire and antagonism drives the plot forcefully onwards.' Madeleine Gray, The Saturday Paper

'An insular, intoxicating narrative that will keep you absorbed until the very last page.' Ruby Grinter, Readings

'A powerful rendering of psychological unease, and fast, intimate friendships that suddenly vanish . . . One of those books that leaves you stewing over your own experiences.' Erin Stewart, ArtsHub
'Lay weaves a deep sense of unease and uncertainty into this atmospheric novel, shading her closely observed portrait of adolescent intimacy with keen instincts for the way power relations and performative behaviour can influence social development.' Sydney Morning Herald

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