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The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan
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“We can't carry our whole lives with us everywhere we go. Memories have weight, and no one can lift them all at once. We have to leave some of them behind.”

Home, both as a tangible entity and as a symbol, is treacherous in its portmanteau denoting. It liberates one from the claustrophobic expectations of the society, but it also binds one obsessively to its roots. It empowers one to celebrate the strength of familial identity, but it also imprisons one within its folds. It betokens an element of comfortable security, but it also hearkens to a yearning for the reckless unknown. Its carefully evolved walls grandly unveil some dreams, while stifle some others. It is here that people experience the eccentricities of birth, a maddening propensity to escape and a wishful desire to die surrounded by its familiarity.

Kristy Logan's The Gloaming has a charmingly deceptive cover, its phantasmagorical azure background revealing two mermaids serenading the title. But the novel is not a mere frothy oracular spectacle. Logan employs the trope of mermaid folklore to contemplate the paradoxical nature of one's relationship with one's home.

The Gloaming's opening paragraphs are both enchanting and ominous. We are introduced to an almost uninhabited island away from the contraptions of modern civilization, where the whimsies of time and space do not intrude. When the residents grow old and begin to experience the stiffening immobility of their situation, they climb atop a cliff and turn into stone effigies, trapping themselves away from oblivion.

Peter and Signe, desiring a peaceful life away from the chaos of the world, find themselves a home on the island along with their three children Islay, Mara and Bee. Their lives follow the static pace of the island, till a tragedy tears the idyllic life of family asunder. As grief and torment engulfs them, each member finds a different way to cope with it. Peter and Signe vignette their past through memories, embedding themselves permanently in its endless loops. Mara, on the other hand, finds solace, first in an abandoned mobile library, and later in her relationship with Pearl, a performing mermaid who awakens her sexuality, and whose enigmatic life and ornate lifestyle enchant and lure her.

As the narrative journeys through the treacherous crests and troughs of human emotions, Logan poignantly enunciates the way the grief of tragedy permanently alters one's relationship with one's family, with one's idea of home, turning it into a grotesque shadow of itself. We find the characters ricocheting between their desire to unshackle themselves from their roots and begin life afresh, and a wistful nostalgia that begs them to reclaim it, literally and metaphorically, despite the scars and fissures. The novel is a poignant chronicle of people who pine for a time and a life that cannot be restored.

Unfortunately, the marvelously fascinating premise of The Gloaming is let down by a meandering pace that mirrors the deadpan humdrum of the island. The plot is sparsely populated by narrative catalysts that can propel the story forward, and the elaborate descriptions do little to supplement their absence. The lack of specificity in detailing too, instead of emboldening the imagination, leaves it flailing in a sluggish vagueness. The characters are mostly flat, mundane and languidly etched, and little seems to affect their ossified behaviors and traits.

With little substance to narrate the story, The Gloaming triumphs in its splendid, evocative imagery, its sumptuous rendition of the mysterious hushing of the sea and the eeriness of the petrified statues occupying the liminal space between the land and the sea. And of course, Logan's language, at once complex, plain, and infused with the magic of folklore, spanning the expanse of age and time to summon the vivid vulnerability of love, grief and longing.
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Reading Progress

April 24, 2019 – Shelved
April 24, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
April 26, 2019 – Started Reading
April 29, 2019 –
40.0% "What a dark misted, dew-scented literary treat it's turning out to be! I wish the plot would hurry, though."
May 5, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Ilse (new)

Ilse Beauteous, evocative and eloquent write-up on this novel that could not entirely convince you, Neira - a joy to read about a book of which the mixing in of folkore and the mermaid elements seemed such a good premise to create a unusual kind of beauty in words.

Neira Ilse wrote: "Beauteous, evocative and eloquent write-up on this novel that could not entirely convince you, Neira - a joy to read about a book of which the mixing in of folkore and the mermaid elements seemed s..."

Thank you so much, Ilse, for your generous comment. It is rare to come across contemporary fiction that is so powerful and haunting in its scope and imagination. It is unfortunate that the author, in attempt to create a world that sings of the liminal wilderness of folklore, thwarts the narrative's attempt to build an equally enchanting plot.

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