Saturday, January 22, 2005

A most lovely and unexpected review!

Went online to do a little research on the Dublin Noir anthology that Ken Bruen's asked me to contributed to--I've got a good idea for my story but I rarely read and never write short fiction, so let's just say I'm intimidated--and happened instead upon this lovely review of the Serpent's Tail edition of my novel. I'm excerpting because I'm a sucker for this kind of flattery. A good review is the most excellent thing in the world! Thank you...

Elizabeth Mann is a character who takes no prisoners. In a whirlwind fourteen or so paragraphs she goes from sitting in New York contemplating killing herself or her father--the main bone of contention in her life--to taking up a shitty job offer working for a budget travel guide in London. Finds a grotty bedsit, settles in, cheats a little on the job, and while covering museums is drawn in by the medical curiosities at the Hunterian Museum. Here the pace lets up a bit, and it is here, in more leisurely fashion, that she meets the skeleton of Jonathan Wild, a notorious eighteenth-century criminal, and Gideon Streetcar, a married infertility specialist who studied under her father. Both will greatly affect her life.

Although she doesn't particularly like the obnoxious Gideon, she embarks on an affair, and it is while she is attending an auction with him that she ends up with a manuscript written by Mary, the second wife of Jonathan Wild, who writes about the first wife, also called Elizabeth Mann, dying in childbirth. Becoming obsessed with Wild, Elizabeth decides to give birth to Wild's clone. The childless Gideon is easily roped in, but he has his own agenda. This could end in tears, for someone.

Divided between Elizabeth's odd quest and her methods of getting things done--usually by bedding a poor hapless person into doing her bidding or at least stringing them along--and the manuscript, which tells of the everyday life and comings and goings back in the Wild household and his 'Office for the Recovery of Lost and Stolen Property', the book takes on many guises. Mary's tale, full of historical interest, would be a romance if the syphilitic Wild were anything near cute, and Elizabeth's tale would be a modern-day 'food and fucking' novel if it weren't for her preference for McDonald’s and the Jurassic Park overtones of meddling with Wild’s DNA or the sex taking on a whole new perspective when she opens her legs… to receive artificial insemination. The whole evolves into one very good, well-paced novel, with Elizabeth’s brutal machine-gun delivery tempered by Mary’s more refined, gentler approach, giving a balanced tone and texture where one wouldn’t really expect it.

What gives Heredity that little something else though, is the awful Elizabeth. Moody, selfish cows who hate almost everything (see the lovely lunch scene with Gideon) except an English jam doughnut and a good bonk just about anywhere are not the typical American heroines of today. Long may her type rattle the conventions. Jenny Davidson has come up with a winning protaganist and a worthy debut novel. MGS

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, that was really well explained and helpful