The Retreat by Alison Moore review – a tale of two islands

1 year ago 133

Alison Moore’s debut novel, The Lighthouse, was published successful 2012 by the valiant tiny property Salt and made it connected to the Booker shortlist. Now, with her 5th novel, she returns to the isolated places by the oversea that person truthful often inspired her work.

In this caller book, a would-be creator called Sandra joins an artists’ retreat connected an land called Leiloh wherever “contentment is assured”. In a parallel story, Carol, an aspiring writer, travels to a deserted land truthful that she tin decorativeness her novel. Although the worlds of these characters are modern and mostly realistic, this is simply a communicative laced with the tropes of fairytale and myth. Emblematic and intentionally flimsy, Sandra and Carol are often described successful presumption of adverts, plays and books. The ambiance of the islands is eerie and unsettling, the penning imbued with a deliberate simplicity and distance.

The references to legends and fairytales travel heavy and accelerated – Angela Carter, Bluebeard, Alice successful Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, the Pied Piper, the Wizard of Oz. There are besides mentions of different “island” books and writers, including the Moomins, Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, HG Wells and William Golding. Yet Moore assures america that this is not a endurance scenario. There whitethorn beryllium nary mobile telephone signal, “but it’s not similar this is simply a shooting trip; idiosyncratic whitethorn endure a insubstantial cut, oregon a twisted ankle, that’s astir it”.

So what, then, is this caller about? The strongest parts originate from the secondary characters who are attending Sandra’s retreat. From the outset, they exclude Sandra and soon are openly bullying her. One of her paintings is ruined by a footwear mark, her evening formal is mysteriously ripped, the vegetarian lasagne she cooks is not welcomed. Perhaps some assemblage and retreat bash not beforehand pistillate creativity successful the ways we mightiness expect?

The hostility rises erstwhile a 2nd pistillate called Sandra appears. The archetypal Sandra is distracted by the caller arrival’s mirrored sunglasses, “in which she tin spot herself reflected back, squinting”. The caller Sandra’s meaty lasagne is simply a large occurrence and her originative enactment is greeted with enthusiasm. Yet however overmuch worth tin the scholar connect to this creativity? The proprietor of the land whitethorn good beryllium close erstwhile helium describes the radical arsenic “half a twelve amateurs travel present to fanny astir with their second-rate pictures and poems”.

There is an insistence passim connected announcing imaginable meanings and past brutally undercutting them; similar the islands, the caller is foggy and mysterious, and the scholar is perpetually wrongfooted. Just arsenic Moore retreats from the themes of her novel, truthful Sandra is soon seeking to retreat to adjacent greater solitude. But we already cognize from Carol that beingness connected a deserted land is not the blessing she expected. She tin constitute her novel, but the land itself is “creepy”. Windows slam shut, the odor of ail is everywhere, pictures autumn from walls, telephone cables mysteriously travel unplugged.

Perhaps it is not the land that is haunted, but the originative beingness itself? Again, this tantalising thought remains unexplored and we bash not afloat observe however these 2 stories (which bash concisely coincide) end. Of course, the constituent of literate fabrication is that the scholar collaborates successful the gathering of the book. Here we bash not get rather capable tools with which to work, yet we tin inactive respect Moore’s committedness to uncertainty, difficulty, that which cannot beryllium grasped.