Book Review: Bitterhall by Helen McClory

Set for early April release, Bitterhall will be the newest instalment in Helen McClory’s bilbliography, which includes Mayhem & Death, On the Edges of Vision and of course, the Goldblum Variations. Bitterhall takes the form of a novel told in three unreliable perspectives.

Publisher Birlinn describes the plot: “Daniel, Orla and Tom share a flat and narrate the intersections of their lives, from future-world 3D printing technology to the history of the book, to a stolen nineteenth-century diary written by a dashing gentleman who may not be entirely dead.

“A Hallowe’en party leads to a series of entanglements, variously a longed for sexual encounter clouded by madness, a betrayal, and a reality-destroying moment of possession.”

Largely, the story is told in short chapters, rarely longer than just a few pages. These act as short and sudden bursts of introspective, feeling, and unease. These are helpful as each segment is so full of content, it makes sense to have these little breathers at the end of every big thought.

So much character is packed into the whole piece, but especially in the first pages and chapters. Within a very short amount of time, I felt like I had something of a keen grasp on Daniel’s character. Though, as our narrators are so unreliable, I was second guessing this. Still, the opening was especially rich.

McClory’s writing is technically brilliant: she is a true wordsmith and sorcerer who can bend words around her fingers into poetic and fantastic sentences. Her writing is something you can truly become lost in; I believe it has almost a sonorous quality, like a dark lullaby.

You can pre-order Bitterhall now directly from publisher Birlinn for £9.99; the book is due out for April 1. Follow author Helen McClory on Twitter here.

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