The Drowning Girl Paperback – 6 Mar 2012
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About the Author
Caitlin R. Kiernan is the author of nine novels, including Silk, Threshold, Low Red Moon, Murder of Angels, Daughter of Hounds, and The Red Tree. Her award-winning short fiction has been collected in six volumes, including Tales of Pain and Wonder; To Charles Fort, With Love; Alabaster; and, most recently, A is for Alien. She has also published two volumes of erotica, Frog Toes and Tentacles and Tales from the Woeful Platypus. Trained as a vertebrate paleontologist, she currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
Top customer reviews
Schizophrenia runs in India Morgan Phelp's (aka Imp) family. Her mother committed suicide because of it, and she still struggles on a daily basis -- especially since she can't trust her own memories. It also gives her some oddities, including a fascination with the Red Riding Hood fairytale, drowning victims and a painting called "The Drowning Girl."
But one night, she finds a naked woman named Eva Canning out by the river. Much to the dismay of her girlfriend Abalyn, Imp brings her home to shower off.
From then on, Imp is haunted by Eva Canning, who may be a mermaid, a werewolf, or two different women altogether. As her relationship and her sanity crumble, Imp must somehow put the fragmented pieces of her psyche together and discover the secrets of Eva Canning, and how much of this magical sea woman comes from insanity...
Reading "The Drowning Girl" is akin to slowly being pulled into a crystalline whirlpool, only to be just as slowly swept out onto a moonlit beach. Caitlin Kiernan immerses you into Imp's mind until -- like her -- you can't tell fantasy from reality, magic from madness. Memories are unreliable, truth becomes fluid.
The plot revolves around four very different women. Imp is a brilliant, fragmented woman haunted by countless things, and she's being tugged between the world of sanity (Dr. Ogilvie) and the world of enthralling, magical madness (Eva). The one rock in her life is Abalyn, a beautiful, feisty transsexual woman who loves Imp passionately despite her mental problems.
And Kiernan's writing is the most beautiful here that I have ever seen it -- lush, sensual and quirkily evocative (Imp's headache is "gremlins running around in my skull banging on pots and pans"). She spins up some spellbinding images with her words ("the pale, scale-dappled form of a woman bobbing in the frothing waves, her wet black hair tangled with wriggling crabs and fish").
But she also scatters it with sharp, glassy glimpses of Imp's madness, including a whole chapter written in a manic, hallucinatory style. She immerses you into Imp's mind until you feel all her uncertainty, her pain, her fragility. It's brilliant, but hard to read.
"The Drowning Girl" is a spellbinding, sea-scented depiction of love, madness and art -- and it will leave you feeling changed. Definitely one of the year's must-reads.
The Drowning Girl is a book that defies genre; it is Literature. The main voice of Imp perhaps best describes the books' lineage when she claims that she is related to Lovecraft, although she "Doesn't like his writing much", and although there are elements of Lovecraft here, the novel goes way beyond "Cosmic Horror".
There are no absolute beginnings and endings in real life in the same way that truth and fact are the same AND different, and there is a paradoxical duality to all things, and it is in this vein that India Morgan Phelps is writing about her Haunting and meeting with the strange Eva Canning. A stream of consciousness account where there is no strict arrow of time or certainty. Labyrinthine and confusing, the reader is led through the events at the whim of the author.
Despite the seemingly randomness of the retelling, Kiernans' writing is always superbly imaginative, cleverly constructed, well paced, and what she does exceptionally well is to imbue every scene with a sense of something "just beneath" bubbling away unseen, that give a skewed view of the way things are or could be, whether it be touching inciteful or chilling, or all of these things at once.
Kiernan, if nothing else, writes for the ear. She is an American Homer, if you will, tangled up in her own painful but personal utterances which grow from the `base idiom' of newspapers and popular media, but that show us prophetic visions, from which we must ask: What is reality and how can it be confronted?
Kiernan presents us with a simple dialect of despair. The diaphanous stains of life in flux, lost beyond shimmering curtains of a mind in crises...
Ultimately, annihilating as deeply inhaled carbon monoxide, but also as wonderful as LIFE!
FIVE STARS is not sufficient, people, this is a quite simply a Velociraptor of a book!
The style is writing tends to be rambling. Caitlin Keirnan starts a chapter with something like 'This is the time I saw a ghost', and then 5 pages later she never actually gets around to writing anything of the sort, it just trundles along, flitting from this to that. If you don't concentrate the entire time (which I had to, because the book wasn't gripping me), then you can blink and realise you have no idea what the character is talking about.
I appreciate that it is first person, and the character is schizophrenic and such, but the continuous word vomit is tiring and frustrating.
I will admit that I may be proven wrong if I managed to finish the book, but reading is my hobby, it's not meant to be a chore.
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