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Pseudotooth Kindle Edition
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At the beginning of Pseudotooth I wondered if it was a young adult novel, but I soon realised that it is in fact a much more adult take on the genre than I was expecting. The fantasy elements - hauntings, time-slip, portals between worlds, dystopia - are beautifully executed but there's an underlying darkness, even a grittiness, to this book. There are hints that Aisling's symptoms could be caused by a past trauma, and the story of Feodor, a young teenager from the East End who seems to inhabit Aisling's subconscious, is bleakly squalid and disturbing. What's Feodor's link with Aisling? Where does the strangely-dressed Chase, who turns cartwheels on the lawn after dark, come from? And who is behind the pre-war journals in Aisling's room that outline the author's theories on how to handle the the 'defective classes'?
You will certainly want to ask questions of this book that won't be answered, and it's left to the reader to decide for themselves what's real and what isn't, and where imagination ends and madness begins. Some would call this book fantasy, some slipstream, some speculative fiction and some would say it was magical realism, but it really doesn't matter how you choose to categorise it: it's enough to know that Pseudotooth is a cleverly constructed, atmospheric and gripping read. It's packed with all sorts of ideas, images and allusions to art, history, literature and psychology that somehow come together with remarkable coherence, and its scope is ambitious, with multiple interlinked plot strands and a vividly-drawn cast of characters shaped in part by their respective pasts. Pseudotooth is one of the most original and immersive novels I've read in a long time.
I'm glad I had an opportunity to read Pseudotooth, because it's the kind of speculative fiction that deeply fascinates me. I enjoyed reading this novel, because the author successfully blurs the lines between dream and reality, taking the story into exciting directions with her riveting approach to difficult themes.
Pseudotooth is an interesting novel, because it can be classified as a kind of a blend of adult fiction and young adult fiction with a touch of slipstream fiction and magical realism. Although young adult readers may enjoy this novel, I personally recommend it to adult readers due to its challenging themes.
When I began to read Pseudotooth, I was amazed at the quality of the prose and the depth of the story. It was a bit difficult for me to believe that this novel is the work of a debut novelist, because the story flowed effortlessly, the characterisation was excellent and the author dared to explore challenging themes. Normally, there are at least a few tiny flaws in debut novels, but there are no flaws in this novel, because everything feels polished.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
At the beginning, Aisling Selkirk and her mother, Beverley, are at the doctor's office discussing Aisling's scans, because she has had pseudo-seizures. The scans reveal nothing out of the ordinary and the doctor says that there's nothing physically wrong with her... Beverley drives Aisling to the Suffolk countryside so that she can recuperate there and spend time with her great-aunt Edyth at the old vicarage. Edyth's brother, Robert, is also at the vicarage. Aisling seeks solace in William Blake's poetry and writes her journal... Aisling channels violent dreams and visions about a young man called Feodor, whose detailed history can be found in her diary. Feodor is a Londoner who is haunted by his family's history... When Aisling discovers a Tudor priest hole, meets Chase and hears about what has happened at the vicarage, the lines between dreams and reality begin to blur...
This is all I'll write about this finely-crafted story, because I don't want to reveal too many details about it. The less you know about the story, the more you'll enjoy it.
The characterisation is exceptionally good, because the author writes engagingly about Aisling who has been raised by her mother, Beverley. Aisling doesn't have a father, because Eliot left Beverley in the care of his aunt, Edythe, and then disappeared from their lives. Both Aisling and her mother, Beverley, are well-created characters. Feodor and Chase are also interesting characters, and so is Edyth, because she's a strict woman who isn't intentionally cruel.
I found the Verity Holloway's way of exploring acceptance, mental illness and recuperation genuinely intriguing. She is strikingly honest and realistic when she writes about them. I'm sure that Aisling's condition will cause an emotional response in the readers, because the author describes how Aisling feels about her condition and her life (Aisling desperately wants to get well, she has to take pills and she's often nauseous).
One of the things that I like about this novel is that there's a wonderful balance between realistic elements and fantastical elements. It's almost uncanny how vividly the author writes about these elements and how easily she combines them, because everything feels compelling and the fascinatingly bleak, strange and dream-like atmosphere makes the story all the more immersive. She explores what is real and what is not in her own unique way.
I loved the author's writing style and beautiful prose. I found the prose gorgeous, because the sentences are well-structured and the descriptions are evocative. The author conjures up powerful images with her sentences and evokes a sense of strangeness that will enthrall readers.
I think that readers who have are familiar with the stories written by Nina Allan and Christopher Barzak will find this novel especially intriguing, because there's something in it that is reminiscent of their stories. I have a strong feeling that the complex and unusual story will charm many readers.
I sincerely hope that Verity Holloway will continue to write more novels, because she has a beautiful literary voice and she doesn't hesitate to write about difficult themes. Based on this novel, I can say that she's an assured and confident author who writes fluent and nuanced prose. She's definitely an author to watch.
Verity Holloway's Pseudotooth is a deeply compelling and beautifully written novel that readers of literary speculative fiction can't afford to miss, because Aisling's story beckons to be read and re-read. It's something different and evocative, so don't hesitate to read it.
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