Tuesday 25 September 2018

Book Review: Folk; Zoe Gilbert.

It's been a while since I've read a collection of short stories, and seeing as this one is so centred around folklore, it seemed the perfect Autumn read.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

AUTHOR: Zoe Gilbert
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing
PAGES: 256
GENRE: Adult, Magical Realism, Horror, Short Stories

RATING: 4/5 Stars

The remote island village of Neverness is a world far from our time and place.

The air hangs rich with the coconut-scent of gorse and the salty bite of the sea. Harsh winds scour the rocky coastline. The villagers' lives are inseparable from nature and its enchantments.

Verlyn Webbe, born with a wing for an arm, unfurls his feathers in defiance of past shame; Plum is snatched by a water bull and dragged to his lair; little Crab Skerry takes his first run through the gorse-maze; Madden sleepwalks through violent storms, haunted by horses and her father's wishes. 

As the tales of this island community interweave over the course of a generation, their earthy desires, resentments, idle gossip and painful losses create a staggeringly original world. Crackling with echoes of ancient folklore, but entirely, wonderfully, her own, Zoe Gilbert's Folk is a dark, beautiful and intoxicating debut.

What I Liked:
  • I really loved the supernatural and folklore elements to this book. From the very first tale, 'Prick Song', it was clear exactly the kind of book I'd be reading, and it really made me excited for what was to come. Spirits, creatures and events were used to explore some really dark themes in this collection, and I loved it! Favourite stories included 'Long Have I Lain Beside The Water' for it's take on grief, 'Swirling Cleft' for a sweet, maternal story about Selkies, and 'Verlyn's Blessing' about accepting your differences and being proud of them.
  • Gilbert's writing was absolutely gorgeous. One of my favourite examples of this was found in 'Fishskin, Hareskin' which shone a unique light on postpartum depression. But I loved the atmosphere that her words cast upon these tale, and the way that they really interweaved to create a whole.
What I Disliked:
  • Thanks to the lyrical style, at times the stories could be a little hard to follow. They require a certain amount of re-reading to pick apart what's happening, but in this case it's not necessarily a negative thing. I loved unpicking the symbolism personally.
  • There were, as is the case in any collection, a couple of stories that didn't take my fancy in the same way as the others. 'Kite' I found to be a little confusing, and 'Turning' was almost entirely skippable because not a whole lot happened. That being said, they had their own merits and definitely contributed to the wider picture.
Overall Conclusion:
I really enjoyed reading these stories, and they were the perfect seasonal read for sure! Firstly, each story was unique and captivating, and I loved that they spanned a whole generation from the same place and we got to see different characters in each one. I would pounce on another collection like this from Gilbert, as  found it haunting, visceral and captivating from beginning to end. Also, I love that it was based around the Isle Of Mann!

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