Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Glorious Gothics

Iris Murdoch's faux gothic fable The Unicorn is a intriguing, tense read about a woman seemingly house-bound in the wilds of west Ireland after a love affair gone wrong. The airless status quo is disrupted with the arrival of a young tutor, who's intrigued by the mysterious characters and circumstances behind the curious living arrangements and it's not long before she's tempted to resolve the situation once and for all. It's beautifully written and Murdoch builds a disturbing, atmosphere pregnant with actions and words unsaid and it builds nicely until it's inevitable crescendo. It's a wonderful read but I'm beginning to suspect that I'm missing some of the symbolism or subtext that lurk beneath the surface of Murdoch's novels.

Rudyard Kipling's Strange Tales is a compendium of peculiar little stories, set mostly in colonial era India. There's ghosts, ghouls, werewolves, pits of death and a miasma of weirdness all written with a direct, sparse prose, though old fashioned and a little stilted, somehow manages to imbue the events with an extra chill. Few books have ever actually frightened me and Kipling's is no exception but his strength lies in the descriptions of the psychologies of the disturbed and perturbed characters as they face unsettling, incomprehensible scenarios. Maybe a little patchy but definitely worth a look.

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