It’s difficult to review The Night Brother without spoilers. Set in Manchester at the turn of the century from the 19th to the 20th, the suffragette movement is on the rise. Edie and Gnome become caught up in a new wave of free thinking pushed to its limit by their predicament. For, ultimately, the novel is about a radical rethinking of sex and gender. What does it mean to be a woman or a man? Continue reading
Flesh and Bone and Water opens with a letter to André from Luana. She says it has been many years since they’ve been in touch and that André made ‘us wait’. Who is Luana? What happened between her and André? How did André make her wait?
This opening puzzle is what drives the novel, allowing the reader to intuit answers well before André whose blindness to events is painfully self-willed. Continue reading
I loved this novel. I couldn’t sleep one night because I was trying to think of the right way to describe the way it reads. To me it feels as if the story has been uncovered, carefully dug from the earth and smoothed free of soil with the gentle strokes of an archaeological brush. Many stories feel pieced together, made – mine in particular – but this story feels as if it has been waiting to be set free of the rough unhewn marble.
I don’t want to suggest that everything felt perfect. Both the beginning and the end sounded awkwardly in my ears. The start seems self-conscious and I wanted more from the ending, but perhaps only because I’m greedy – I prefer suggestive endings and that of Strange Heart Beating is more suggestive, truer to the uncertainties of life, than final. However, the novel really is enticing. The hum of our most ancient stories plays quietly in the background, imprinting upon the modern story of pain and loss so that Seb’s grief – his wife Leda has just died, drowned after being knocked from her boat by a swan – deepens the groove in the floor of our understanding of what it is to feel love and loss; in the same way that Leda’s story replays old motifs to create a new song. Continue reading