Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Palace of Curiosities - a review


It's taken me a while to read this - see previous entries about deadlines and copy edits - but it was worth the wait. The second those edits had gone, my feet were up, cat installed on my lap, and the book opened.

It's one of those books whose characters are so richly drawn they stay with you. Not over drawn, there is plenty of space for the readerly imagination to fill in detail, but still beautifully evocative descriptions of people, places and events. Some, the slaughter scene especially, are vivid and uncomfortable, but necessary for the intense perspective of Abel, one of the main characters. The other, seeking acceptance and love is Eve, and through her story we see her grow and mature into her own person.

I disagreed with the Guardian review as to pace. I liked the middle of the book, especially as we get to meet and understand the characters that revolve around Abel better. I liked Eve, and understood her unfurling into the stronger woman. I also loved the beginning, where Eve speculates on her conception in an almost fairy tale way. As a writer, I would have preferred less 'leered, growled, yelped, roared' in exchange for a bit more showing but that's a personal preference. The dialogue itself is very good. The descriptions are stunning, completely evocative, and as someone who struggles with description, I am filled with envy. She won the Mslexia competition, I think this is one of the reasons why. Wow.    

It wasn't a difficult read. In fact, it was so readable I devoured it in two sittings, with just two changes of cat. It will be one of those books that I periodically take down, start to read, and find another little gem of imagination unfurling in my mind. I can't wait for her next book. 

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