Greer Gilman's Cloud and Ashes: Three Winter's Tales is the best novel I have read in a long while.
I've compared it, in different veins, to John GardGreer Gilman's Cloud and Ashes: Three Winter's Tales is the best novel I have read in a long while.
I've compared it, in different veins, to John Gardner's Grendel, and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon, but with a more literary bent - those are the closest things I've read to this novel, outside of Shakespeare. There's simply nothing out there like it, or Greer Gilman.
The cycle of myth that Gilman has created is on par with anything you'll hear about from Joseph Campbell - an origin story, the lunar and solar yearly cycles, the hero journey, the lover's tryst, the folktales of the peasants, the relationships with the natural world. It's a synthesis of Western myth, told in a believably familiar, but completely entrancing and new voice.
The craft, the images, the themes, the sheer poetry of the three stories (two shorter ones to set the scene, and a long novella) can be difficult to slog through initially (especially if you've never encountered writing like this before) but if you keep with it you'll be very satisfied. The prose is told as if through a haze of all the words that came before it, and most of it is in dialect - I haven't read much Joyce but it's similar to that. Additionally, the abstraction and ethereal tone that Gilman evokes can give long spans of the novel no sense of place, but it works - the world of Cloud is held together tenuously, like the web in her story. Frankly I find it beautiful. There are so many layers and planes that the story works on, from the celestial, to the everyday, to the literary. The experience of reading Cloud and Ashes is to be fully immersed in the present moment, being overwhelmed with the beauty that the hodgepodge English language can produce. Sounds kind of pretentious, but it's true. Of course it helps that the author-ess is a lexicologist.
The plot circles in on the unassuming and reticent girl, Margaret, who was born and raised in the celestial plane of Law by her sinister grandmother, the goddess of the moon, Annis - but escapes. Margaret is the product of an incarnation of Annis' daughter, Ashes, who was stolen away to the earthly land of Cloud with a simple fiddler. Her journey through Cloud to find her mother and escape the prying eyes and spies of her grandmother is a myth as rich and multilayered as any hero journey from the European tradition.
For anyone interested in literature, myth and folklore, or pagan culture, I highly, highly recommend this book. Especially for women! ...more
this is a title that has fascinated me for a while now, as has all of Plath's work. i wish i had steeped myself in more of her work sooner. reading ththis is a title that has fascinated me for a while now, as has all of Plath's work. i wish i had steeped myself in more of her work sooner. reading this novel was in itself an expedition into depths, and into myself and the world of how-i-used-to-think - being a young bewildered woman-child. it may be fifty years old, but women are still women, and this world is still where we live. it was a remarkably ferocious read, the poet/prose spins itself so beautifully, you almost want to be crazy just to think the way Esther Greenwood does. i've read other mopey-poetic crazy-girl tales, and it was quite refreshing to see where they all spawned from....more