Elizabeth Baines has crafted a haunting novel that explores the colliding relationship we have with impassive scientific explanation and the irrationa...moreElizabeth Baines has crafted a haunting novel that explores the colliding relationship we have with impassive scientific explanation and the irrational world of magic (or the belief in indomitable predestination and superstition). How does the modern world allow us to reconcile our paranoia and fear with some sense of control over our destiny?
This premise has informed English writing since the Romantic Movement, and The Rational versus The Imagination is now a timely theme for us to consider. How do we live our lives to ensure the best for our children, who do we trust, and do we ultimately have any control over our destinies? The book focuses on modern concerns such as food production, the credibility of modern medicine and the authority of the media.
These themes are exercised through key plot events; falling in love with someone you shouldn’t, the breakdown of a marriage; the unexpected illness of a loved one. Baines explores the anguish we feel when we cannot get either rational science (with its contradictory messages) or the ‘what will be, will be’ attitude of the romantic to explain the splintering of our lives.
The two men in the novel represent each side of the argument. One represents the alternative to the unspeakable horror that is reality, whilst the other represents the comfort of proof and rationale. Which one our main protagonist chooses will ultimately define her future and define her own beliefs. The magpie rhyme, "One for Sorrow..." etc. becomes a charm to ward off the threats of the natural world.
It a gripping tale that is not without it's surprises. Leaving the reader with a satisfied ending.
Baines achieves all of this with the most enigmatic prose; at times haunting, always poetic. She speaks of the modern woman’s paranoia like whispers through silk. Whilst managing to embody the effortless tone of A.L. Kennedy with the talent for Magical Realism of Angela Carter. But she is also clearly a unique voice and one that I am excited to read more of.
The more time I spent thinking about this novel the more I came to realise how cleverly structured it is. Not a word is wasted every sentence resonates with some supernatural power and a distant melody. All the events, no matter how minor, feed into the overall fabric of the novel. At only 123 pages it is a book to savour, to be read slowly and it will gradually imprint itself on your consciousness. This is a fantastic achievement from a fresh, noteworthy talent. (less)
Marvellous Hairy is a new wave of Fabulist Satire set in the near future, centred around the research being carried out in a frightening behemoth of a...moreMarvellous Hairy is a new wave of Fabulist Satire set in the near future, centred around the research being carried out in a frightening behemoth of a corporation called Gargen (or Gargantuan) Enterprises. Gargen specialises, secretly, in the reconstruction of human DNA. It is headed by the insipid megalomaniac Ted Shute. So begins a glorious adventure of corporate greed, drugs, lascivious sex and the unleashing of one’s inner monkey.
To say this book is simply funny would be to gloss over it's delicious decadence, this book is anarchy with a sweet tooth. The writing is savagely funny like a laughing hyena on acid. You laugh but sometimes it’s uncomfortable to watch… There are obvious parallels to be drawn with the writing of Douglas Adams but only if Adams stories were more horny, drug-crazed and surrealistic. Rayner is ruder, madder and badder than his predecessors.
One of the main themes of Marvellous Hairy is corporate greed and what it does to the everyday folk. Human subjects are dispensable for profit and power. On one level it’s just a regular everyday satire of modern commerce, but after the first page you soon realise it’s so much more interesting than that. Really poignant issues arise also, like the individuals’ attempts to reconcile human self-awareness with their animal nature.
From the opening scene of what I can only describe as the wedding from Hell (to which you wish you’d been personally invited) you immediately get an idea of what’s in store.
Peopled by the most fabulous cast of miscreants and heroes, who incidentally I want to read more of, this novel is brilliantly paced. In fact it never lets loose. The action sequences towards the end are timed to precision and it boasts a tight structure. It even contains a helpful cast of characters at the beginning, like they are the players in a Shakespearean play - genius!
Marvellous Hairy is a funny, engaging novel about serious issues but it is never in danger of becoming didactic or angry - Rayner manages to walk this line with skill and with, I would imagine, a smile on his face.(less)
The Last Stitch is the second installment in Prue Batten's The Chronicles of Eirie. A fantasy come fairy tale adventure that does not require the read...moreThe Last Stitch is the second installment in Prue Batten's The Chronicles of Eirie. A fantasy come fairy tale adventure that does not require the reader to have read the first volume. A synopsis and prologue are thoughtfully included, as well as a glossary and map.
Batten has constructed a vocabulary for her World of Eirie based on ancient folklore and this gives the novel an authenticity, and reinforces the magical atmosphere of a world inhabited by Faerans, Others, magical creatures, herbology and enchantment. Batten borrows folklore from Ireland, Scotland, Japan, the Middle East and Northern Europe concocting a delicious pottage of colourful allegory.
The novel is finely paced and the plot begins to take shape almost immediately. There are a number of characters that are spirited enough to engage the reader, notably Adelina, Ebba and Gallivant.
The lyrical prose possesses a serenity and understated flair that makes this book readable and memorable.
The subject matter does not interest me enough personally to read the first book, The Stumpwork Robe, but this is a pleasant read that may appeal to fantasy lovers.