The trope in fiction where someone who can’t remember their life or whose memories have been wiped or something along those lines… is a very appealing trope to me. I find it fascinating.
Have you ever argued with someone who quoted past conversations from say 6 years ago with startling clarity and then told you what each pregnant pause in that long-ago conversation really meant? Reading Frances’ mind was sort of like that. Frustrating, unreliable despite her best efforts to maintain the opposite, and unsettling.
For my money, this was a book that did exactly what it set out to do: reframe a woman from a dude’s story where she was the villain into the protagonist of her own tale and remind you that perspective and who gets the privilege of having their story told…? Those things matter.
I actually think that character building is where Mohanraj really shines. Yes, the world-building is interesting and complex (thankfully we are given the exact right bit of information so that we can follow along and care without getting overly bogged down), but it is the characters who will stay with me.
I didn’t like Lillian and I think it was because of how she was written rather than who she was, which I know sounds weird, but there you have it. She wasn’t believable.. and, again, I know how weird that sounds for a character in a book with fire kids… but when you suspend your disbelief in supernatural things for the premise, that doesn’t mean you can’t bump on inconsistencies and badly written characters.
The book is about a horrible horrible world and the horrors never stop. In the hands of a less skilled writer, you could get desensitized to what is happening. So many murders. So many rapes. So many children being killed. But somehow Butler keeps us feeling those feelings without ever going numb, as much as we might wish we could.
IEvery time I read a novel about the Black experience, I am shaken by the sheer shit that history has doled out. Some people like to say that Black people should get over the past, that it is unfair for contemporary people to still be bitter about the history that their people have suffered. Those people are wrong.
It is not a novel.
I happen to enjoy short stories.
What I don’t enjoy is having a book that calls itself a novel start off with an interesting protagonist only to discover that she is only the protagonist for 18 pages.
But you know, it wasn’t just dark… it was twisted. Think Tim Burton but not as weird. And… well, honestly, it was kind of sad. It had a good ending, don’t get me wrong, but the world that we live in is really dark… and that darkness is the patriarchy.
Think a tad Douglas Adams, a tad, Terry Pratchet, but… more mellow and not trying so hard. The humor is here in spades but it isn’t a laugh out loud sort of humor or jokes told at full volume. Rather it is a bit akin to snide or sarcastic comments muttered under your breath that nearby listeners will accept with a wry smile of acknowledgment.