I was very intrigued by the description of this book when I read it in Net Galley, and despite my long list of books waiting to be read, I could not resist. It did not disappoint (I’ve seen it in the Guardian List of the Non-Booker prize books), although it is not an easy read.
But first, a bit about the book:
She comes in the night.
She looks into your eyes.
One by one, she has taken us all.
For generations they have died young.
Now Iris and her father are the last of the Villarca line.
Their disease confines them to their lonely mansion on Dartmoor; their disease means they must die alone.
But Iris breaks her promise to hide from the world. She dares to fall in love.
And only then do they understand the true horror of the Villarca curse.
From Victorian ghost story to anti-war polemic and back again: I raged, wept and hid under the bed covers. As full of science as it is the supernatural, this is a hauntingly brilliant virtuoso performance. — Emma Healey author of ELIZABETH IS MISSING Gloriously dark and claustrophobic, Rawblood is a haunting gothic novel of intelligence and complexity. It has many echoes of the classics but is entirely its own book. Essie Fox, author of THE SOMNAMBULIST
About the Author
Catriona Ward was born in Washington DC and grew up in the US, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen and Morocco. She now lives in London where she works as a writer and researcher for Bianca Jagger’s human rights foundation. Rawblood is her first novel. @Catrionaward.
The book was due to be published on the 24th of September, so if there haven’t been any problems, it should be available by the time you read this review.
Now, my review:
Thanks to Net Galley and Orion for giving me a free early copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Rawblood is a challenging novel (it’s not an easy read) and a novel difficult to define. The story of a ghost, or a haunted house, the Rawblood of the title, has elements of the gothic horror tale. The house itself, the characters, the Victorian era some of the stories are set in, the setting, even the style of writing. But there’s much more than that.
The story is told from many characters points of views, in different styles as pertains to the characters. We have a young girl who narrates the story in the first person, as she grows up. We have the diary of a young man, a doctor, who observes and takes notes of everything as if it was an experiment (and there is something of the mad scientist locked up in the cellar also), there is a woman with magic powers (a witch) who also tells us her story, in a stream-of-consciousness style. There is a sick woman and her companion; they both go to Italy and become embroiled in the story too. There is a young man who’s lost a leg in WWI and is trying to find his bearings. There are not only multiple characters and protagonists, but also different eras. Although the readers senses they must be all related somehow to the family cursed, the Villarcas (if that is what is happening), the connections don’t become clear until the very end. And most of the book we spend wondering who is who and what their role is in the story.
It is a haunting book, not only because of the nature of the story, but because of the beauty and lyricism of the language, and the strong emotions of all the characters who get touched by the ghost (for lack of a better name). The mysterious she of the story has an intense hold on everybody she comes in contact with, no matter how cynical or sceptical they might be to begin with.
The pace of the novel varies depending on the fragment we’re reading, and as I said, so does the style. The language, with many archaic words, is not for easy consumption, and it shows a care an attention to detail not common these days.
Perhaps if I could change anything, I wonder about the ending (not the explanation behind the ghost. I think that’s perfect) and the re-rehearsing of much of what has happened before again from the point of view of the ghost. But then, perhaps that’s right too, as it makes the point stronger.
I wouldn’t say this is a book for everybody, but it is a gem for readers with a taste for the extraordinary, time, patience, and a love of literature. I’m sure we’ll hear more about Catriona Ward.
Thanks to Net Galley, Orion and of course, Catriona Ward for her novel, thank you all for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and CLICK!