I treated myself to a couple of books for my birthday back in January, and The Beguiling, by Zsuzsi Gartner was one of them.
As is typical for me, I can’t remember where I read/heard about the book (I really should come up with a system, like a note in my phone or something equally as simple) but it obviously intrigued me enough to grab it off the shelf at Epic Books on Locke St. And can we talk about that cover?!
In The Beguiling, Lucy is grieving the loss of her much-adored cousin Zoltan who was attacked at a bizarre warehouse party (ceremony?) and succumbs to infection of the wounds inflicted on him there.
Shortly after Zoltan dies, strangers begin to seek her out as their confessor, a role which she accepts and later grows to need in order to keep going.
Back then, just two years after Zoltan’s death I fed on the confessions much like a vampire bat feeds on sleeping cattle. What was this endless hunger I was feeding? My ego or a sense of spiritual entitlement? Lucy of East Vancouver, patron saint of bottom-feeders.
As we read the stories of Lucy’s confessors – and the majority of them are grim, horrifying confessions – more is revealed about Lucy’s own character and history and throughout the novel, she becomes less and less reliable as she becomes more and more distant from family, and, it might be said, from reality.
This is a extremely dark, occasionally shocking novel that requires a great deal of concentration – or at least it did for me – to comprehend the twists, the topsy-turvy kind of narrative. There is, as I mentioned on Instagram when I first started reading it, a LOT going on, but it is so, so worth it.
And lest the idea of it being extremely dark prevents you from picking it up, please know that there are parts that are also desperately funny, and writing that is intensely, gloriously human.
It is also the kind of novel you will likely want to go back to immediately after finishing it. Gartner plays so heavily with style, with narrative, and with timeline, that it’s a bit like being underwater and not knowing which way is up until eventually you burst to the surface and everything makes sense again. That is, until you take another plunge with eyes closed back into the unknown.
This book is exceptional and is one I’m very glad I own so I can go back and reread the highlighted (with post-it note tags only, of course) sections and flip between confessions to determine links and relations, and to bask in Gartner’s intensely tight, evocative, mind-bending prose.