Saturday, 16 February 2013
Candia McWilliam, 'A Case of Knives'
I came to Candia McWilliam through her memoir, 'What To Look For In Winter' (which is the title of a Ladybird book, since you ask) which I found beautiful and painful in equal measure. This novel is too. A straight woman (I believe), McWilliam writes wonderfully well about what it (must) feel like to be a gay man cruising lovelessly while besotted with a heartless creature who may provide his downfall. Some might think her language overwrought. Not me. She gets away with it, all the time. What was she talking about here "this mawkish abdication from hope for the sake of a puppet queen"? Doesn't matter, really. And I shall steal this one "handsome as weathercocks". The plot is not promising. Handsome heart surgeon Lucas Salik, who heals little children, darling of the media, closet gay and besotted with the heartless blond Hal. His best friend is the aristocratic Scottish widow Lady Anne Cowdenbeath, who has exotic taste in clothes, and blood and untimely death in her past. Into all their lives comes Cora, twenty years old, rootless, and pregnant. Animal rights are a plot feature. I will not say more, because a spoiler would be inevitable if I did. The device she uses, that of giving each character a voice for part of the book, then taking the story on in the voice of another character, works brilliantly - and I have read a number of books where it does not, and becomes tedious. But there is real shock in some of the events. I missed my tram stop twice while reading this, and that does not happen often. Some of what happens I saw coming, and some I did not. Shocking, dark, and beautiful.