Author: Eleanor Wassenberg
Publisher: Fourth Estate
This is another debut novel from its author; there seems to be a trend in the books I am reviewing on my blog this month (see: Bodies of Water by V.H. Leslie Review).Another impressive debut at that. In this title Wassenberg tackles the story of a young girls experience growing up in an abusive commune or ‘cult’. The story itself is told from the perspective or our female protagonist, Green, who begins the book as a very young child, of around 4 years old. We follow her narrative as she recounts her upbringing in this run down but magical communal home known as Foxlowe, if it be a little dark magic.
I use the word abusive but unsurprisingly Green is unable to process her childhood as such. She adamantly believes in the mythology and organisation of Foxlowe and has no interest in the outside world. She is the only member of the commune to have been born there although she is one of three children to have been raised there: the ungrown. Other than her young companions there are 9 other residents of Foxlowe whom we meet in the book. It is Freya, however, whose presence dominates the story, commune and the life and mind of Green.
We see each character through the eyes and words of Green. We are privy to her unique perspective on the world whilst able to compare reality with her twisted interpretation as we come to better understand her situation. We are introduced to her as a child and her voice remains immature even as she grows due to her limited and manipulative education. Wassenberg writes Greens narrative in a way that reflects the very special language of Foxlowe, often simplistic, confused, unusual and on occasion beautiful. The prose itself may have varying success with different readers – it’s purpose is explicit but its simplicity may frustrate some. Nevertheless you will zoom through this one.
There are gaps in other moments of the story. Character motivations and stories who I myself wanted to learn more about and holes I wished had been filled in. The reader, however, is limited to the same information as is shared with Green; a character who is simultaneously in the middle of events and on the outskirts of the discussion.
My overall sense of the book was one of sadness. The story is forlorn and on occasion difficult to read. There are a lot of references to flesh wounds that had my stomach in knots. It had me hooked though. I cared about Green. I wanted to see her happy despite the improbability of this happening and the way in Freya had manipulated her sense of happiness itself.
Another fascinating and promising debut author whose future works I will most certainly be checking out.
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