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Author Recommendation: Nicola Griffith

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Reading | Posted on 05-01-2008


AmmoniteI read Griffith's first novel, Ammonite, shortly after it came out. It was, for many years, the best first novel I'd ever read. I also read one of the Bending the Landscape anthologies she edited with Stephen Pagel, and it was good, too, but not earthshaking. Slow River was well-written, but for some reason it just didn't toast my bread. I knew that Griffith had written a mystery or two, but didn't hurry to find them.

Slow RiverI should have.

I read The Blue Place a few days ago. I finished it the same day I started it, because I couldn't do anything else. I don't know why it hit me so hard, as it isn't really the sort of thing I usually like. It's definitely classic noir, and I prefer my mysteries on the cozy side. The heroine, Aud Torvingen, pings me as being too much like the person my crazy ex-girlfriend pretends to be.1

The Blue PlaceFortunately, Aud doesn't have Teh Crazy. She's not a comfortable person, and I still don't entirely like her. She's extremely real, though, and I've been right there with her throughout these books.

Griffith's prose is tight, but packed with details that let you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel her world. When Aud runs her hands along the grain of a plank of wood, you know the tree. You're inside Torvingen's head, and it isn't a comfortable place for anyone. She's very much at home with her body, and Griffith allowed me to remember how glorious it is to move, to work hard, to dance, in a body that does what it should. I'm thankful for that.

StayThe Blue Place was a gut punch. I didn't expect the ending. I didn't like the ending. With most authors, I would have tossed anything else she wrote into the giveaway box and gone on. In fact, I was going to return the other two books in the series to the library, unread.

So what do I do? Picked up Stay this morning, because I couldn't help it. I needed to know where Aud went from where Griffith had left her. And I'll probably read Always after that, although I may have to recover for a few days again. I don't know if I'll write anything about those two, specifically, but this is probably enough babbling for most people.

AlwaysI just realized why I've never re-read Slow River, or recommended it. It does deal with childhood sexual abuse2, which I try to avoid in fiction. That wasn't the real problem, though. Betrayal is such a major theme in the book that I felt as if I had nowhere to stand. I identified too strongly with the main character, and I read it at a time when I really didn't have a firm foundation. I could probably read it again now, with my nicely safe and settled life, but I don't know that I will.

I understand that Griffith has an anthology of her own short stories coming out sometime soon. I look forward to it, and whether Stay and Always give me warm fuzzies or not, I plan to read it. I can't recommend her work strongly enough if you're looking for solid writing, piercing descriptions, and honest characterizations.

1 Now that I'm reading the sequel, that feeling is even stronger. I seriously think she may have read these and chosen Torvingen as a role model.

2 I don't recall any explicit abuse scenes. All the characters are adults at the time of the events in the novel. There is explicit sex, though, in the context of a dysfunctional (abusive, by my standards) relationship.

Comments (3)

I’m sor­ry if Aud is in any way to blame for your ex’s behav­iour. There again, you’d have to be crazy to pick her a role mod­el in the first place (shud­der).

But I’m delight­ed that you got hooked by Aud. I hope you do read Stay and Always. There’s no betray­al and they’re quite hope­ful books.

If you’re inter­est­ed in what I’m work­ing on now – an his­tor­i­cal nov­el that you may find more like Ammonite in tone than any of my oth­er books – vis­it my brand new blog, Gemæcca, which is ‘the sto­ry of writ­ing a nov­el about Hild of Whitby’.

I just freaked my part­ner and daugh­ter out because I got loud­ly fan­girl­ish over your comment 🙂

Aud isn’t to blame for the crazy, I’m sure. Last I knew, she fan­cied her­self as Eka­te­ri­na from Lois McMas­ter Bujold’s Miles Vorkosi­gan series. That’s a real stretch, believe me!

I still feel odd about say­ing that Aud isn’t crazy. I meant more that she wasn’t like that per­son. She’s not exact­ly bal­anced, is she? I was very inter­est­ed to run across the men­tion of “bor­der­line” in Stay. Aud is incred­i­bly sta­ble for some­one with BPD, as they usu­al­ly have no set sense of self, lead­ing them to rein­vent them­selves peri­od­i­cal­ly in major ways. They usu­al­ly have a string of dra­mat­ic, bro­ken rela­tion­ships and often major shifts in career, reli­gious beliefs, and even appar­ent sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion. Aud seems very solid­ly Aud, so that I com­plete­ly under­stand Tammy’s descrip­tion of her as “con­crete.”

I asso­ciate the traits men­tioned in the nov­el (oth­er peo­ple aren’t real, hav­ing to delib­er­ate­ly mim­ic “nor­mal” behav­ior) with sociopaths more than borderlines. 

I fin­ished Stay today and did find it far more pos­i­tive. Aud’s growth is inspir­ing and believ­able. I’ll def­i­nite­ly be mov­ing on to Always short­ly. And I’ll def­i­nite­ly look for­ward to Gemæcca! You’ve already got­ten me read­ing about Hild and the Syn­od of Whitby.

Thank you!

Well, cool. Hap­py to make you *squeee* .

My lit­tle sis­ter was diag­nosed with BPD. Noth­ing like Aud, I agree.

I think the Hild nov­el is going to be the best thing I’ve done. There again, I always think that…