A Haunted, Surreal Debut Novel About An Otherworldly Young Woman, Her Father, And Her Lover That Culminates In A Shocking Moment Of Betrayal One That Upends Our Understanding Of Power, Predation, And Agency Ada And Her Father, Touched By The Power To Heal Illness, Live On The Edge Of A Village Where They Help Sick Locals Or Cures By Cracking Open Their Damaged Bodies Or Temporarily Burying Them In The Reviving, Dangerous Ground Nearby Ada, A Being Both And Less Than Human, Is Mostly Uninterested In The Cures, Until She Meets A Man Named Samson When They Strike Up An Affair, To The Displeasure Of Her Father And Samson S Widowed, Pregnant Sister, Ada Is Torn Between Her Old Way Of Life And New Possibilities With Her Lover And Eventually Comes To A Decision That Will Forever Change Samson, The Town, And The Ground Itself Follow Me To Ground Is Fascinating And Frightening, Urgent And Propulsive In Ada, Award Winning Author Sue Rainsford Has Created An Utterly Bewitching Heroine, One Who Challenges Conventional Ideas Of Womanhood And The Secrets Of The Body Slim But Authoritative, Follow Me To Ground Lingers Long After Its Final Page, Pulling The Reader Into A Dream Between Fairytale And Nightmare, Desire And Delusion, Folktale And Warning Re read following its long listing for the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize and now longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize Now that she was open the room had filled up with the tearing sound, the clotting was given off a smell of blueberries left to long on the stove I started humming, feeling my way towards the pitch of her hurt The baby was sleeping I could see its little shoulders through the curtain of her womb when I lifted the bladder aside Once the humming and the tearing blended, I slipped my hand around the clotted blood and clucked at it until it shrank and slid away I turned from crimson to purple in the shadow of my hand, and left her.Quiet now, aside from the rain I listened hard I d left a bowl under the couch, just in case, but hadn t heard it land there.I bought the skin back together, smoothing away any puckering with the flat of my hand It pinkened some, once re joined, and I waited for the rosiness to fade before waking her.A very accommodating cure This book is published by the small Irish press New Island founded in 1992 as a successor to Raven Arts Press it retains and builds on its commitment to leading edge literature as well as non fiction that addresses core issues of public debate The author Sue Rainsford, a Dublin based writer and researcher concerned with hybrid, lyric and embodied texts, explicit fusions of critical and corporeal enquiry, as well as with experiences that alter our understanding of flesh As a writer she has written on a number of books including The Vegetarian, The Lesser Bohemians, Martin John, Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, The White Book and the Milkman where she examines in particular the way in which women s bodies are represented and discussed in culture as an aside the way in which she captures the Middle Sister s voice in Milkman is inspired.https www.suerainsford.com commissiThis book, her debut novel, was I understand partially inspired by her researches into these areas during her MFA from Bennington College, Vermont This includes the metaphors used to describe the female body, and also particularly the installation art of Jenny Keane and her lick drawings and their concept of the displacement of horror Keane literally licking away the most horrific element of scenes from horror films.Simone de Beauvoir s famous saying A Woman is Not Born She is Made was also important.So an exploration of a world in which The metaphors used to describe the female body become literal Horror and disease are displaced from the body via the conscious bodily intervention of another And a female protagonist who is literally made by a manAnd the result is this distinctive novel Ada lives with her father in a house in a woodland clearing Both are human but yet not human her father transforms into a hunting animal some nights, Ada was grown by her father in the ground as he was grown in turn by his own father and her body initially lacks sexual organs until she decides to grow them, both live for generations of human lives The humans from the nearby settlements who Ada and her father call Cures bring their sick to be healed Treatments often involve Ada and or her father opening up the Cures s bodies, singing out or sometimes physically removing clots, bruises, tumours which have to be directed elsewhere in some cases extracting whole organs for a period to be cured and in heavier cases even burying the Cures in the Ground outside while they heal.Ada is held in a mix of awe, fear and hatred by the Cures after an incident when a Cure was losing her baby and Ada walked in having discovered it nearbyAda falls for a male cure, Samson their relationship opposed both by Ada s father and Samson s sister Olivia, living with Samson after being thrown out by her husband s family after his death, pregnant and with the father unknown.In face of the opposition Ada seeks to draw on her knowledge and make Samson like her I felt there were a large number of biblical allusions imagery in the book Rather than Adam fashioned from earth and Eve made from one of his ribs Ada s father grows her from, it seems, a bone planted in the earthy ground Ada acts as Delilah to Samson, ultimately identifying his weakness and betraying him Tabatha Sharp is effectively raised from the dead like Tabitha in Acts 9 Ada s Father s remark that The ground is cruel, but with tilling and cursing we can make it useful , as well as the frequent concentration on childbirth seems a strong link to the curse of Genesis 3 The resurrection of Cures occurs after a spell of a few days buried Ada effectively attempting to make Samson born again with a new birth which will change him away from a purely mortal form.All of this is mixed with fokelore and legend and particular with the mistrust of female powers and abilities and the long history of females being labelled either as witches as effectively happens to Ada or as untrustworthy and predatory with the nearby lake occupied by Sister Eel the only survivor of a series of eels supposedly bred to feed on enemy troops in an old war and who has eaten all of her family, including eventually the last male brother eel.Overall this is an unsettling novel one I am tempted to say falls into the Argentinian school of writing as its nearest equivalent I can think of is Ariana Harwicz s Die My Love itself shortlisted for the 2018 Republic of Consciousness Prize on which I was a judge , combined with elements of the magic realism fantasy of Samantha Schweblin Fever Dream.Highly recommended and well worth its place on a very strong longlist Sick is sick, and it has to go somewhere, and some sicknesses are dangerous when taken out of a body Now longlisted for the 2019 Desmond Elliot Prize I peeled back the wet slap of her womb The baby was still in evidence, like the unevenness to grass where some animal has stopped to graze.Longlisted for the 2019 Republic of Consciousness PrizeThe judge s nomination Sue Rainsford achieves something quite uncanny believability Her characters are not human as normally conceived but human like creatures who live on the edge of a village and tend to the sick and dying by burying them in the ground They yearn for real human experience, which, as in other such stories, may cost them the loss of their powers But they are so believable that you might be forgiven for looking for them yourself This book is deeply evocative of what it might be like to find true healing in nature, if not in ourselves.The author s own take gives the book a feminist slant It s a story about desire, the hidden cost of intimacy, the images and behaviours we ascribe to female bodies and the violence those bodies are met with when they break with expectations.https www.independent.ie entertainm Sue Rainsford s powerful debut novel has been published by the small, independent press New Ireland who, in their own words have a commitment to leading edge literature as well as non fiction that addresses core issues of public debate. Rainsford may be a debut novelist but is as excellent writer about books as well as of books, for example this piece from my favourite book on the 2018 RoC prize longlist, Patty Yumi Cottrell s brilliant Sorry to Disrupt the Peace in prose that is simultaneously visceral and tender, reminiscent of last year s RoC shortlisted Die My Love, this is an atmospheric and genuinely unsettling book one that lingers in the mind unbidden and returned in my dreams after reading it The last book that had that effect on me was Fever Dream, 2 years ago.I don t want to say too much about the set up or plot of the book, indeed the judges may have said too much Not that this novel that particularly has a plot to spoil, it is a immersive experience than, rather like the ground in the narrator s garden, sucks in and swallows the unprepared gradually and lingeringly And the novel is ripe with symbolism Gumble Yard s excellent review albeit best read after the book brings out many of the images including biblical resonances The author s own comments on her inspiration can be found in this video interview if there is a small weakness of the novel it is that plot rather suffers by comparison the major plot developments are flagged in advance, and that a key revelation at the end apparently takes the narrator, Ada, by surprise rather lacks credibility That said the ending is powerful and, in keeping with the tone of the novel, open and unsettling A couple of comments on typology This is, as my Goodreads friends Neil and Peg have pointed out closer to magic realism than fantasy The world of the Cures as Ada and her father refer to the surrounding community seems to be our normal world albeit a rather isolated and old fashioned community and while the powers of Ada and her father are regarded as rather weird, they are seemingly accepted by the Cures as normal And there is, deliberately, no attempt to provide a coherent account of the curing process or even what sort of being Ada actually is And on the Todorov scale of the uncanny through the fantastic to the marvelous, this is, at the marvelous end Unlike Fever Dream, there is not even a hint to the reader that the events could have a rational explanation Fever Dream was successfully pitched in what the literary critic Tzvetan Todorov calls in his Fantastic A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre the fantastic He argues that an author can choose between a rational explanation for supernatural events what Todorov calls the uncanny and a supernatural explanation what he calls the marvelous and most would call fantasy Todorov focuses on the difficult to occupy middle ground The fantastic occupies the duration of this uncertainty Once we choose one answer or the other, we leave the fantastic for a neighbouring genre, the uncanny or the marvellous The fantastic is that hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the laws of nature, confronting an apparently supernatural event.Overall another excellent book from a very strong Republic of Consciousness Prize longlist, Follow Me to Ground has to be one of the strangest books I have ever read but I loved it The author s writing was beautiful, and the story was so different Once I started it, I read it every second I had a chance until it was done.I would have liked explanation about everything literally everything but I think that is part of the magic and the draw of this book.And that cover Longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019My penultimate book from the RofC longlist and the strangest one yet It is unquestionably highly imaginative and well written, but the whole thing is a little too distanced from reality for my taste, like a magic realist nightmare without the realism.Fortunately, my Mookse group friends have already written detailed reviews that saw in it than I did, so I recommend these by Paul, Gumble s Yard and Neil. I opened this novel with no idea what it was about and with no knowledge of the author Part of the reason I didn t know the author is that I have since discovered this is her first novel although she has written about many other books.Having now read the book, I have to say that I think coming at it with no prior knowledge might be the best way to experience it For that reason, I am going to try to avoid details of the plot apart from maybe a bit of scene setting that might creep in.Opening the book unsighted leads to a very disorienting first few pages A girl later named as Ada and her father known as Father live out of town and heal the townsfolk who come to them they call them Cures The way they heal is, to say the least, surprising Ada and Father are not what you might call normal and we quickly discover several disconcerting facts about them We are in the realms, I think, of magical realism The place they live isn t all that normal, either there is something about the ground that we gradually learn about When Ada falls for one of the Cures, all hell breaks loose.But that s enough about the book This is a sort of horror story and it needs to be read rather than explained the less you know going into it the better, I think I found it captivating even though I am not normally a fan of magical realism and even though the overall arc of the story is actually fairly predictable Somehow, the fact that you sort of know what is going to happen doesn t matter it sort of adds to the tension a bit like watching a horror film, in fact, when knowing something terrible is going to happen soon adds to people s pleasure or so I am told I don t think I have ever watched a horror film.The author has a website you can find much of her writing about other books here www.suerainsford.com This is a quote from that website Sue Rainsford is a writer researcher based in Dublin.Her practice is concerned with hybrid, lyric and embodied texts, explicit fusions of critical and corporeal enquiry, as well as with experiences that alter our understanding of flesh.I am not sure I understand all of that statement, but it sounds interesting In an interview on www.independent.ie, Rainsford describes her novel like this It s a story about desire, the hidden cost of intimacy, the images and behaviours we ascribe to female bodies and the violence those bodies are met with when they break with expectations.There is a lot going on here. When books are described as haunting, you know I m there This sounds like a beautiful nightmare of lyrical fiction Thank you to Scribner for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. Somehow this managed to press all the wrong buttons for me I read the first 100 pages carefully after which I skimmed the last 100 life is too short etc , so I m not the best critic of this book notforme I read this book as part of the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Longlist It is full of Magic Realism, which differs from fantasy in that the strange and impossible events are seen as normal by the characters This MR was so well written that the fantastical events began to seem REAL to me See my Booktube review at Dreamlike, strange, and compelling story about two static, otherworldly beings who have long lived on the outskirts of town and used strange powers to heal the ailments of those seeking help This book is a trip, with an interestingly unreliable narrator It s really well written. and also very wtf Right up my alley in other words Utterly mesmerising Wholly original Couldn t put it down.
- 208 pages
- Follow Me To Ground
- Sue Rainsford
- 01 September 2019 Sue Rainsford