My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Date Read: January 8th, 2018
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ), February 8th, 2018
Every year they gather, while the girls shoot their arrows and the boys hunt them out. The air is riddled with spiteful shadows – the wounds and fears and furies of a village year.
On a remote and unforgiving island lies a village unlike any other: Neverness. A girl is snatched by a water bull and dragged to its lair, a babe is born with a wing for an arm and children ask their fortunes of an oracle ox. While the villagers live out their own tales, enchantment always lurks, blighting and blessing in equal measure.
Folk is a dark and sinuous debut circling the lives of one generation. In this world far from our time and place, the stories of the islanders interweave and overlap, their own folklore twisting fates and changing lives.
A captivating, magical and haunting debut novel of breathtaking imagination, from the winner of the 2014 Costa Short Story Award.
I was so very much looking forward to this; I even featured it on my list of most anticipated books. This collection of connected short stories is steeped in myth and folktale and set on an island with an absolutely gorgeous cover – how could I not read this? This sounds like absolute perfection. And the writing is lyrical and the atmosphere haunting. But it is also disjointed and lacks a sufficient emotional punch to be the great book it could have been.
As is normal with short story collections, there were some that worked better for me and some that left me cold. I absolutely adored Swirling Cleft with its rumination on family and loss and love. It was stunningly beautiful and left me aching. On the other end of the spectrum I did not like Fishskin, Hareskin and thought its rumination on postpartum depression stayed on a superficial level.
The language is absolutely stunning with vivid imagery and interestingly structured sentences (that sometimes border on inaccessible). Zoe Gilbert has a brilliant way of creating metaphors and storylines that feel familiar while still being original. Her original fairy tales feel just like that: fairy tales. Their matter-of-factness in their weirdness is spot on and brilliantly done.
I think ultimately my main problem was that the connections between the stories were not strong enough to give the individual stories the impact and depth I would have liked while the stories themselves often were not strong enough to stand on their own. I could never remember the characters between each stories because they mostly did not leave all that deep an impression on me and I think this lack of connection is what ultimately left me feeling mostly ambivalent about this book.
I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing in exchange for an honest review.