‘Some demon of the deep is stirring in its sleep, bellowing its grief through the thick layers of water that press it down and chain it to the bottom of the sea.’ ~ Sabina Lungeanu, Hiraeth
This wonderfully poetic gothic novel starts off with the story of well-hidden madness and all-consuming flames. Only those meant to find their way to Merriver actually end up there, and Warren, the man with whom this story begins, definitely needs to spend some time in Merriver with its ‘slate-grey turrets [that] impale the leaden sky’ and its decaying masonry covered in creeping ivy.
However, Warren, haunted by his demons and ghosts from his past, is but the trigger, the catalyst for the actual event that this novel is about. Death is the great equalizer, it is always there, lurking in some corner of the room, sitting in the backseat, floating on the surface of the waves, waiting patiently. Philosophy and theology overflow with questions and possible explanations of the desire to know what happens after death, where we go if we do go anywhere, and if there is a thread or a chain that could tether us to this world. The yearning for immortality is one of the reasons why artists create – in order to leave something behind, a part of themselves that would render them immortal. However, a more common response to where we truly reside after we are gone is in the memories of the people that we leave behind. This is the truth that Larkin, the novel’s protagonist, will discover when he finds himself unable to leave this world and move on.
The novel is filled with contrasts – life and death, fire and water, sanity and madness – that leave the reader entangled, curious, excited, and eventually, suspicious. I enjoyed the vivid and poetic depictions of the settings, the vibrant dialogues, the accents and the turns of phrase that made the characters practically audible in one’s mind. The epilogue functions as a metafictional device that casts a dark shadow over the entire narrative making us question the nature of the story, the truthfulness of the memories, the sanity of the narrator. Hiraeth is a truly exciting novel for the lovers of the subtle macabre and the mysterious darkness and you can check it out here.
© 2020 Erna Grcic