A debut novel can be a joy to behold. I always find myself excited at the prospect. But they are something of a lottery. This debut was a most disturbing read, a kind of domestic dystopia on our doorstep. In some ways the unfolding of the story in all its gothic horror denies you, initially, to actually appreciate the quality of the writing which was atypical of many debut works. It flows economically yet expressively and creates an atmosphere that is unnerving throughout.
The book explores the concept of the ‘cult’ and it’s effect on the individual. Again because the story itself dominates the consciousness of the reader it is only after reading that one pauses to consider the events in their wider implication. The cult commune of Foxlowe struggle in many ways to reconcile their individual selves alongside their cult selves with tragic consequences. Which causes me to question why people join cults in the first place. A dissatisfaction with their own lives and selves or a wider dissatisfaction with the society they’re living in.
The book is narrated by one of the younger cult members, Green, and so we are seeing the events unfold through her eyes only. I found this occasionally frustrating because I wanted to understand matters from some alternative perspectives. As with many cults a lore of language and tradition bordering on the obsessive rule the lives of the members and woe betide any transgressions especially from the younger members. And as one might expect, or would there even be a story, things do not progress swimmingly.
The pathos is heightened when you consider the idealism and idyllic intention behind the forming of this cult which might work if all pulled together equally. But personalities intrude and conspire and divide to prove more chaos than idealism. And brainwashing and conditioning do a thorough job.
The final part of the book is quite horrific. Most unsettling. This is a joyless read so if you’re looking for upliftment you probably want to steer clear. But if you don’t mind being challenged emotionally and cerebrally give it a read.