The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
|The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: A beautiful and heartrending tale of hope, loneliness, and life in a world covered by sea. An astonishingly accomplished debut novel|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: May 2015|
|Publisher: Harvill Secker|
|External links: Author's website|
In a future in which the sea has flooded the world, Callanish is a gracekeeper – administering shoreside burials and sending the dead to rest in the depths of the ocean. The solitary life of tending watery graves serving as penance for a long-ago mistake. Meanwhile, North is a circus performer – living with a flouting troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers and trainers, and with only a bear for a friend. An offshore storm leads to a chance meeting between North and Callanish – and a chance to change both of their lives.
The world is wonderfully built – a flooded world that is divided between those on the sea, the 'damplings', and those living on what little land is remaining or reclaimed – the 'landlockers'. Whilst glimpses of an underground city point at this being a post-apocalyptic tale, it could well be considered timeless – this is a society with very little in the way of material goods, and pagan religions survive alongside a resurging Christian faith. Callanish and North are compelling narrators – and whilst the point of view occasionally switches to other characters, providing valuable insights and motives, their main purpose is to shine more light on the tales of our two leads. Callanish leads a solitary life, tending to her graces and relying on encounters with ships of travellers in mourning in order to provide brief snatches of company, and whilst North seems to lead a lively and enjoyable life aboard the circus ship Excalibur – it soon becomes clear that she is almost as lonely as Callanish, relying on affection from her bear and attempting to escape an enforced engagement.
Various themes are touched on throughout the novel – the dangers of ignoring our damage to the environment, the economic disparity between groups of different origins, loss, love, loneliness, grief, gender, sexuality – all appear throughout the tale, and yet are never overstated or conspire to turn the story into a morality tale. They are simply layers to this intriguing world and its engaging and understandable characters. In fact, even rather unlikeable characters – (Avalon, for example), are not without believable and sympathetic motives.
This novel is, to be frank, completely enchanting. A cross between myth, fairy tale and science fiction, The Gracekeepers is an entirely original tale. Mentions of Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter are deserved, given that The Gracekeepers does, much like many of Atwood’s novels, include women surviving in a speculative future, and tells a tale that feels as old as time, whilst giving it a modern, female driven viewpoint - a la Angela Carter. This should not take away from the fact that The Gracekeepers is a wholly original and entirely compelling novel, and only owes a small debt to such luminaries – Kirsty Logan has crafted something original and truly wonderful. Special mention must go to the cover too – a beautiful, tactile book. A marvellous read, I’ll heartily be recommending this novel – and I would encourage it to anyone who wishes to be swept away, enchanted, and left stunned on the dark shore of The Gracekeepers
For further reading I would suggest The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Wholly enchanting and with wonderfully rich prose, it’s a rich read with intelligent characters, an intriguing plot, and a story that lingers long after the final pages have been turned.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan at Amazon.com.
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