In the main timeframe of the novel, Joy is living in the council house Michael became tenant of when his marriage ended. She faces ongoing difficulty about her right to live there.
Joy describes the view outside:
garden from the kitchen window looks like a set for a film about Passchendale
By comparing the garden to a devastating battle in World War One, Galloway’s imagery suggests bleakness, desolation, and even danger.
The interior of her house also seems to be dangerous. Galloway employs striking imagery to evoke the idea of simple objects taking on a sinister significance to Joy's troubled mind. The carpet is:
Liquid black. Still wet. It seeps when I put my shoe near, bleeding at the rim of leather,sucking at the sole.
bits of sunk ship suggesting she is underwater. It is through the description of setting that we are first alerted to the irrational voice of the troubled narrator: through her eyes a normal living room interior takes on the characteristics of a horror movie.
The house even seems to attack Joy. She has
bruises from shifting furniture, sears from the oven and tears in my nails from cleaning.
Far from being safe in her own private space, Joy experiences danger. Her house constantly comes under direct threat from the outside world. It is burgled and Joy has to check for intruders. The Health visitor, Myra, Tony, and David, all invade Joy’s space at different times. Myra and Tony, unwanted guests, literally invade the house. Myra’s visit is particularly intrusive, even sinister. Joy hears
flesh on wood, scratching, and Galloway’s capital letters convey how loud, threatening and abrasive this violation of privacy is:
ANSWER THE DOOR/I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE
During the course of Myra’s visit, the house seems like a prison Joy has to flee from:
I’m just putting the kettle on, I shout to cover up the key turning in the back door...I find change in the kitchen drawer and run like hell to the call box, hoping.
Rather than being a place of safety and protection, Joy’s house is a space where she is damaged and threatened.