Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a strange and difficult novel. Not difficult to read the way that words are read, but difficult to process, emotionally.
It's very strong on feminism by way of how much crap women go through in these pages. It's ostensibly a fantasy with lots of adventure and traveling, but through different characterizations, we're subject to tons of slavery, abuse, acceptance in the midst of horror, and sex.
I can see where people might call this a literary novel as much as they might call it a fantasy. The question of sexuality takes the forefront with LGBT featured. On top of that, the difficult narrative drive of abuse shows up in all shapes and sizes. I've read a lot of mightily difficult novels in this vein.
One particular novel that was written long after Black Wine, in particular, comes to mind. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is just as emotional to read and while one is fantasy and the other is dystopian SF, they both have a LOT in common.
The strangeness of this novel has nothing to do with sex or abuse, however. It mostly has to do with questioning the nature of the characters in relation to the narrator. Confusing? Not quite spelled out except perhaps it is at the end? Yes to both. We're meant to re-evaluate all of the text, and it pretty much worked. Except where it didn't, quite, for me. A little too arty perhaps. I'm worried it cheapened rather than deepened the full experience.
It IS, however, well worth reading for all of us interested in the nastiness of the human condition and what steps we take to survive and find happiness despite it.
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