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Reeling with edge-of-your-seat atmosphere and the entangled lives, lusts and obsessions of three compelling characters involved in a unique ménage à trois (of sorts), Helen McClory’s Bitterhall is a brilliantly unnerving novel that explores the liminal blurring of inner life with outer reality. Narrated by the three characters in intense, short, tight episodes, their lives begin to unravel due to the eerie influence of a nineteenth-century diary, with matters coming to an irreversible, bewildering crescendo at a decadent Halloween party.
Daniel Lightfoot’s voice opens the book, breaking the metafictional fourth wall by addressing readers direct: “I want you to love me, if I’m being honest. That’s why I start so gently, in the garden, in the present tense. A good story begins tipsily in a garden, and carries on through well-proportioned rooms in the past tense in which blood is being spilled and was spilled.” His work involves futuristic 3D printing technology that aims to “copy important rare objects from all over the world to create replicas, mostly for museums.” He wants to “keep the old things safe... To save the past, but let people in.” Another link to the past is the nineteenth-century diary he’s reading, an intriguing document written by James Lennoxlove, the ancestor of his best friend. The diary finds its way to Daniel’s new flatmate, Tom, who can’t put it down and obsesses over Lennoxlove. Both Daniel and Tom’s girlfriend Órla notice a strange shift in Tom, the extent of which is revealed though Tom’s haunted, tormented narrative, and all three accounts of the Halloween party.
Laced with Daniel’s dry wit alongside the growing confusion and creeping sense of madness (“Whatever I had done, I had done with my socks on”), this shrewdly-written read rises to a gripping, question-raising climax.
Bitterhall is a story of obsession told between three unreliable narrators. Daniel, O rla 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.
Bitterhall reveals the ways in which our subjectivity tampers with the notion of an objective reality, and delves into how we represent and understand our muddled, haunted selves.
Closing date: 30/06/2021
'Hauntingly delicious' - Sunday Post
'A dark novel filled with obsession and intrigue' - Scots Magazine
Publication date: 01/04/2021
Publisher: Birlinn Ltd an imprint of Birlinn General
|Publication date:||1st April 2021|
|Publisher:||Birlinn Ltd an imprint of Birlinn General|
|Genres:||Literary Fiction, Modern and Contemporary Fiction, Thriller / Suspense,|
|Categories:||Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),|
Helen McClory is the author of two story collections, On the Edges of Vision (Queen's Ferry Press), a winner of the Saltire First Book of the Year award, and Mayhem & Death (404 Ink), as well as a novel, Flesh of the Peach (Freight, 2017). The Goldblum Variations - a collection of experimental micro-fictions - was published by 404 Ink, and Penguin in 2019. Her short stories have been listed for distinction in The Best of British Fantasy (2018), The Best of British and Irish Flash Fictions (2018/19), and nominated for the Pushcart prize. Helen is a part-time lecturer at the University of Glasgow and co-founder ...More About Helen McClory