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390 pages, Paperback
First published April 15, 2017
[Epping] Forest is ancient. It exists outside time. It sprang up when the planet was freshly cooked and still cooling. It remains today a place of possibilities. Under the trees is easy to believe that the deer might talk and that owls might fly backwards and that an ordinary fourteen year old girl – the kind of girl people rarely pay much attention to – could sit down on the grass and picnic among beasts. She might shake hands with a ghost or dance alongside a lion or spoon trifle into the mouth of a storybook dwarf
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I knew from the start that the tone would be crucial. The story is horrible. It's a thing of darkness and cruelty and it also has a thick vein of operatic wildness, in that it contains masked monsters and flaky magicians and debauched house parties and fiery airplanes. The danger with such ingredients is that the tale risks overheating, becomes hysterical and ludicrous. I had a faint terror of the book turning out like a bad Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, with lots of wafting dry ice and plastic foliage, masked dancers and anguished show-tunes. The best way to counter this threat was to downplay everything and observe the events very matter-of-factly, without fuss. Lucy's perspective was crucial in this regard. She sees and questions but does not rush to judgment - partly because she is still establishing a moral framework to measure all these crimes against.I'm not sure whether it quite worked for me or not, in particular whether the anxiety to avoid the 'Lloyd Webber' treatment meant he dialled it down too much - hence the 4 not 5 stars - although it is certainly a distinctive approach. Brooks is a film journalist by training, and it isn't hard to imagine a film made from the book, albeit it would not be the usual Hollywood fare. The dialling down though has turned this more into a Terry Gillam movie - indeed there were elements of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - rather than a darker Guillermo del Toro script (see e.g. Pan's Labyrinth).
When she was nine years old, a neighborhood predator sexually abused Louise. This event had a major influence on Brooks' life and career, causing her to say in later years that she was incapable of real love, and that this man "must have had a great deal to do with forming my attitude toward sexual pleasure....For me, nice, soft, easy men were never enough – there had to be an element of domination". When Brooks at last told her mother of the incident, many years later, her mother suggested that it must have been Louise's fault for "leading him on".Recommended - and indeed my only issue with the Salt Publishing campaign is that once you have sampled their catalogue #JustOneBook won't be enough.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
They're all barely scraping by in vivid contrast to the novel's high-living Jazz Age aristocrats, and the two groups are pretty clearly on a collision course from the outset.