In a remote town, a young woman arrives to apprentice as a pharmacist under the charismatic August Malone. She loses herself in this work, lulled by the family stories and intimate secrets shared by her customers. But despite her best efforts to avoid thinking and feeling altogether, she begins to realize that something sinister is going on in the town.
The subtle ways authority warps individual autonomy is central to Lucie Elven’s debut novel The Weak Spot ... Elven’s prose has a hidden, still-waters-run-deep quality, spare and reminiscent of fable, yet the story itself is grounded in concrete human situations. The narrative is slow-building, unsettling in the best way, but Elven’s sentences are swift and punctured with wonderfully odd phrasing, dry humor, and elegant insights ... A reader looking for a traditional character arc with a confident narrator that takes them by the arm and tromps them through the story may be somewhat disappointed. The Weak Spot is more interested in the invisible forces that guide our ways of being in the world ... Elven shows the slipperiness of self and narrative—how easily we buy into other people’s stories, how many of us choose to live inside another person’s destructive narrative rather than forging a path for ourselves.
An elegant and captivating fable. It explores our hunger for answers to the nutty issues in our life, things just beyond our grasp ... The Weak Spot is about human frailty and the exploitation that comes with ambition, power and patriarchy. [A] claustrophobic, slightly
For the characters in Lucie Elven’s debut novel The Weak Spot, however, small moments of manipulation amount to something rather more sinister ... Insecurities, penchants and fears become means of exploitation in a novel that uncovers what it is to have our 'weak spot' used against us. Delightfully equivocal and quietly unnerving, the book offers a striking allegory of the power of information in the modern world, and our all-too-human instinct to trust those in positions of authority ... Much like in her short stories, published in NOON, the London Review of Books and Granta, Elven’s prose is sharp yet reads like a heavy dream. The book switches between descriptions of modern medicine and impressions of European antiquity. We are plunged into the intricate lives of the townspeople, without any concrete sense of time or place. This foggy setting plays into the unsettling nature of the book to establish a contemporary story with fable-like charm. The Weak Spot certainly feels didactic, warning of the dangers of human nature like any great fable would ... Elven writes the apprentice’s inner monologue with considerable craft: the more we learn about the mysterious goings on in town, the more we lose touch with her character ... The Weak Spot’s greatest triumph is showing the gradual process of personal and social change. Elven shows that it is not something that happens overnight – it is a slow and creeping creature that only becomes visible once fully grown. Like any well-crafted mystery, the book begins with an ominous sense of foreboding and culminates in an eventual twist, which seems inevitable, if not obvious. As debuts go, The Weak Spot is so refreshingly elusive, it demands to be read a second time to fully unravel the intricate commentary Elven is making on the many moving parts of our modern world.