Wreaking by James Scudamore
Soon, however, she discovers sex, drink, and drugs, along with two older teenagers, Roland and Oliver, who compete for her affections. Together they hang out in the derelict buildings, discovering macabre relics of the institution’s past.
Several years later, Cleo works as a video editor, unimpeded by the loss of one eye. Outside work, her life’s fairly chaotic, although perhaps not as much as her father’s. Seriously ill, he still lives alone in the crumbling villa, dragging his oxygen cylinder along hospital corridors. Roland keeps anxious watch over Cleo from a distance, in between his main role as fixer for Oliver’s amoral older brother, and checking on his mother, a former nurse at Wreaking, now mentally disabled and in the care of a former patient.
I read this novel when it was first published in 2013, and re-read it this month as a kind of sequel to my own forthcoming novel set in a long-stay psychiatric hospital in the process of closing. The author’s descriptions paint a vivid picture of a typical asylum, evoking both its heyday and its abandoned state. While initially sceptical about the paraphernalia left behind, I suppose the NHS Estates department would have assumed the developer would clear the site. However an alternative home would definitely* have been found for the confidential case records.
[*Note: since posting this, the author has informed me that hospital records were indeed left behind when at least one hospital was evacuated. Clearly I have too much trust in my former colleagues!]
I enjoyed spending time with James Scudamore’s characters, disturbing as they are. It’s beautifully written and plotted, and kept me turning the page.
A Beast in Paradise by Cécile Coulon
translated by Tina Kover
This prolific young French author’s English-language debut is her seventh novel, winner of Le Monde Literary Prize. As I find all too often with French translations (although I keep trying), the style verges on tell don’t show. While there are some vivid descriptions of the countryside, I had to take Blanche’s attachment on trust. The plot is simple verging on simplistic, but I did appreciate the violent ending with brilliant echoes of the opening chapter when the young couple first have sex.
Thanks to Europa editions for my review copy.
The latest flash fiction prompt is earthing, and I knew I’d have to bring Matilda Windsor in somehow. I thought first of Henry, digging dandelions from his parents’ graves on Mother’s Day, but thought I could make a more interesting story with another character, albeit a digression from the exact events in book. This must be the first time ever I’ve produced a 99-word story in a single draft, without the need to add or subtract words. A good omen, I reckon!
Heather would’ve welcomed more support from her colleagues for her latest occupational therapy project. Instead, they queried the purpose of creating a herb garden in a hospital about to close. All she could say was that gardening had been a lifeline to her when depression struck.
When the manager arrived, Matty had her fingers in the soil beneath the lavender bush. “What are you up to?” he asked.
“I’m looking for my mother.”
Clive rolled his eyes. Her grave was in the cemetery, miles from here. “Do you think you’ll find her?”
“I already have,” said Matty. “Mother Earth!”
Around a month until publication day, preorders are now open on the IQ website. Just follow this link.