Saturday 14 April 2018

Book Review: In the Garden of the Fugitives by Ceridwen Dovey

Title: In the Garden of the Fugitives
Ceridwen Dovey
Farrar, Straus and Giroux 
Publication Date: 8 March 2018
eBook - EPUB
Literary Fiction
ARC via NetGalley


Almost twenty years after forbidding him to contact her, Vita receives a letter from a man who has long stalked her from a distance. Once, Royce was her benefactor and she was one of his brightest protégées. Now Royce is ailing and Vita’s career as a filmmaker has stalled, and both have reasons for wanting to settle accounts. They enter into an intimate game of words, played according to shifting rules of engagement.

Beyond their murky shared history, they are both aware they can use each other to free themselves from deeper pasts. Vita is processing the shameful inheritance of her birthplace, and making sense of the disappearance of her beloved. Royce is haunted by memories of the untimely death of his first love, an archaeologist who worked in the Garden of the Fugitives in Pompeii. Between what’s been repressed and what has been disguised are disturbances that reach back through decades, even centuries. But not everything from the past is precious: each gorgeous age is built around a core of rottenness.

Profoundly addictive and unsettling, In the Garden of the Fugitives is a masterful novel of duplicity and counterplay, as brilliantly illuminating as it is surprising—about the obscure workings of guilt in the human psyche, the compulsion to create and control, and the dangerous morphing of desire into obsession.

In its representation of two psychological character studies, In the Garden of the Fugitives is superb. From the start, I was swept into both Royce's and Vita's tales, and their gradual confessions held my interest until the end. Although epistolary in nature, the letters didn't dwell on salutations and goodbyes, getting straight to the nitty gritty each time, which worked well, as it almost made you forget this was correspondence, rather than an intimate conversation. The only thing that stopped me giving his five stars was the lack of real conclusion. I finished feeling that, yes, we've glimpsed into the darkest parts of these two peoples' lives, but where has that led us? However, The Garden of the Fugitives is a fascinating read and one that will certainly stay with me for a while. I recommend it to readers who like a deeper, psychological edge to their literary fiction, with a focus on character rather than plot. 4.5 stars

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