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The Blank Wall

by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Persephone book no:

41 42 43

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A Well Full of Leaves
Regular price £14.00
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ISBN 9781903155325

Raymond Chandler once asked his English publisher, 'Does anybody in England publish Elisabeth Sanxay Holding? For my money she's the top suspense writer of them all. She doesn't pour it on and make you feel irritated. Her characters are wonderful; and she has a sort of inner calm which I find very attractive.'

First published in 1947, the New Yorker described the plot as follows: 'A suburban matron, harassed by wartime domestic problems - her husband is overseas - finds herself implicated in the murder of her young daughter's extremely unattractive beau'. It was filmed as The Reckless Moment, featuring James Mason, in 1949 and as The Deep End, starring Tilda Swinton, in 2001. 

This tense and fast-paced novel is about maternal love and about the heroine's relationship with those around her, especially her children and her maid. It is a truly outstanding example of the psychological thriller genre, as well as a highly unusual one due to its female focus.

Also available as a Persephone eBook.


A late 1940s furnishing fabric was our choice of endpaper for The Blank Wall; it was manufactured and sold in the USA.

Picture Caption

Still from the 1949 film adaptation of The Blank Wall: The Reckless Moment starred Joan Bennett and James Mason.

Read What Readers Say

Gaby Wood, ’The Observer’

In my opinion, a perfect thriller - because its thrills arise accidentally, incidentally, and then, in collusion with human nature, conspire to take over the plot… Who really did it, and whether they get caught, becomes almost superfluous, Here the suspense is embedded in a tragedy of manners…. A classic of suspense fiction.

Antonia Fraser, ‘The Spectator’

‘The Blank Wall’ is on the one hand an illustration of the old adage, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practise to deceive. On the other hand it is a brilliant psychological thriller with twists and turns, both morally and amorally, worthy of the great Patricia Highsmith herself… [although] Sanxay Holding was Highsmith’s senior by thirty-two years. That admirable institution, Persephone Books, has produced an edition, complete with Edward Bawdenesque endpapers, which makes this racy, suspenseful tale a pleasure to read. I certainly feel I have been introduced to a masterpiece.

mslizreads via Instagram

Quite a page-turner… it’s also an interesting snapshot of women’s lives in the early 1940s, particularly the challenges and frustrations of everyday domestic life, the imposed dependence on men (financial and otherwise), and the relationship between a (white) housewife and her (black) servant.

Categories: Abroad America Mothers Thrillers

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