Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Ornatrix - Kate Howard

I am almost lost for words after reading this book. The pendulum is swinging between believing it to either be bordering on literary genius or ………. pretentious twaddle. And I want it to be the former!!

Unusual was always one of the first words that sprung to mind, this is the work of a fertile and unique imagination. I was reminded of Perfume and The Miniaturist and The Gargoyle whilst reading. This is a tale of deception and obsession, jealousy and desire. Without doubt it is more literary than colloquial with some beautiful passages of prose.

The historical research gives the book an almost flawless authenticity. The reader becomes enveloped in sixteenth century Italy imperceptibly. Nothing seems to surprise. Yet the characters seems ethereal , ghostlike, so how appropriate that one of the main characters is named Ghostanza.

If the book has anything to say it is about beauty and the observations made on the theme are timeless. Airbrushing isn’t just the stuff of 21st century digital domains!! And it endures as a metaphor within the novel as created beauty is no more than a veneer to conceal the rot within.

This is a debut novel, something I love. And I chuckled to find another author whose name is ‘Kate’. Maybe I am superstitious but I love novels by all the Kates!! Atkinson, Mosse, Morton, Riordan and now Howard. 

I enjoyed the structure of the book, the little ‘recipes’ for beauty products in between the chapters were fascinating and apparently genuine! The characters are diverse and require the sustained attention of the reader to fully appreciate the dynamics between them all. 

And I am led back to my original premise, is this genius or twaddle? Maybe genius is too strong a word but it is a debut work of remarkable depth. 

I was fortunate to win a copy of this novel from Nudge Books and I am indebted to them for the privilege of ‘meeting’ this new and exciting writer.