Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Scotsman Abroad | True Lies Untold in The Drowning Girl

At long last, it's time to talk about one of the best books of the year!

We'd have hit it somewhat sooner - excepting a couple of corrections, the review was good to go more than a month ago - but what with all the incredible guest blogs and everything else, by which I mean buckets of beer, I hardly had the opportunity to attend to it during my American absence.

Tell you what, though: six or eight weeks on from my initial read-through of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, the latest from Caitlin R. Kiernan - and I do believe the final novel of its kind to come from the aforementioned author - has lost none of its power. If anything, it's gained certain shades in my imagination.

You could call The Drowning Girl: A Memoir a ghost story and not be terribly far off the mark, but it's a ghost story only Caitlin R. Kiernan could have written. She's among the most unique voices in genre literature today, and I am, I confess, more than a little mixed in the feelings department to hear that she means to appeal to the YA market with her next novel, Blood Oranges.

Whether it's the last of its line or not, The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is a truly virtuoso piece of work. A masterful feat, even considering Kiernan's standard caliber. If indeed it is time for her to move on, from one world to another, then I can't conceive of a book that better represents all that she's achieved since Silk

In any case, Strange Horizons published my review of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir yesterday, so here's a snippet of it:

India Morgan Phelps — Imp to everyone she and we come to care about over the course of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir — is insane. Probably. Maybe. Possibly. But in any case "there's crazy and then there are crazy people who believe in mermaids and werewolves and unicorns and fairies and shit" (p. 228), a decent distinction which, indecently, leaves Imp doubly damned, because she's a disorganised schizophrenic from a longish line of asylum attendees, tormented in the interim by lunatic visions of a spectre in the skin of a girl.

So what's her word worth? In all likelihood, not a lot. Perhaps nothing. Or else, equally, everything. Assuredly it's all we have to go on in the ninth novel from one of dark fantasy's most masterful artists. This is Imp's memoir, after all — her suggestively subjective account of certain incredible events — and though there are other characters sewn into the road of needles she takes, she is the author of each and every one; we only ever see them through her uncanny, meandering eye. Thus, the question is, was, will always be: is Imp's fly-by-night narration enough to unpick the enigmas within this eminently telling text?

The simple fact is, it isn't. But the truth is, it is.

You can read the rest of my review over at Strange Horizons, and I really would urge you to. If you're a fan of fine dark fantasy - and amongst us, who isn't? - The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is not a book you can afford to overlook.

Meanwhile, on The Speculative Scotsman tomorrow, we'll touch on another of the early year's best. I don't want to give the game away as to its identity just yet, but if you've been paying attention to my tweets this past week... you'll have an inkling, I think.

1 comment:

  1. Within the first chapter, I knew I was going to love this book. I stayed up all night, unable to put it down, and then read it again... multiple times since then. The characters are more realistic to me than the usual superficial fakes other writers put in their boring novels. They have flaws, they aren't perfect, and I can really connect with them as such.