You can buy a deluxe edition of this new, independent New Zealand publisher's handsome production, with "Yulong cream paper ... Woodfree real leather ... foil stamping". The book as trophy: in the words of the lovely Aussie movie, The Castle, "That's going straight to the pool room."
Leaton's first novel is utterly protagonist-driven. Vivienne Coroth is the apotheosis of the Unreliable Narrator. The unreliable anything, in fact.
She's divorced and delusional. Legal prohibitions mean she can't go near her ex-husband. So Vivienne, who just knows she's part of a noble lineage of Faeries, begins a blog through which are threaded secrets, threats and runic hints.
However, she and her discordant mind want more, especially if it involves revenge on Callum. She considers some magic noir, with "your skin and nails, your books and CDs, your ties and your hair", but settles for kidnapping, brainwashing, sustained inter-generational dialogue in which a toddler discourses in flawless syntax, mathematical equations and multiple fantasies.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
"I'm going to bring a little magic into your life," she promises her ex, "whether you want it or not."
Gifted - she claims - with the memories of 20 centuries, Vivienne embarks on a splendidly, terrifyingly obsessive quest. It's a quest interspersed and sometimes interrupted by allegories and parables: the journey of seven stars; the horn players and the gold; Simon and the four cathedrals. It storms towards a final sequence where she sets out into the bush with a stolen child, before a jolting ending of tangled parachute cords and apparent reincarnation.
Vivienne's an intriguing monster. You can never relate to her, but you can marvel at her, especially when she comes unsettlingly close to the truth as regards her concerned, complacent targets. Her intentions are appalling, but you feel pity for her condition and sympathy for her yearnings.
The writing wobbles at times. Nearly every paragraph aspires to be a tour de force; the dialogue often reads like recitative; Leaton tends to equate adjectives and adverbs with impact. Add a narrative in permanent over-drive, and a protagonist who behaves like a wasp on steroids, and you sometimes yearn for a little restraint.
But it's an undeniably virtuoso effort, with plenty of skills and substance. Don't forget the Woodfree real leather.
by Stephen K. Leaton
(Eunoia Publishing $34.99)
David Hill is a Taranaki writer