Complex and Surreal, Goblin is a Compelling Debut
As the weather turns colder and the evenings darker I begin, as usual, to seriously consider the merits of hibernation. Months of sleep and a chance to miss out on the emotional manipulation reserved for the festive season when companies are desperate to sell me their tat for Christmas. Bliss indeed. However, this is sadly unfeasible and so instead I find delicious escape in a book.
The scintillating volume serving to distract me from the jolly capitalism relentlessly hounding my waking moments this time was Goblin, the debut from the thrillingly talented Ever Dundas, published by Saraband.
Following the eponymous Goblin, a raconteur with a somewhat unreliable view of events, Dundas’ tale is a ‘captivating and capricious’ exploration of the ‘creature world’ within us all. Goblin sees an unconventional heroine struggle to decide between exorcising the ghosts of her past or retreating into the safety of delusion, all the while spinning a disarming yarn filled with enchantment and intrigue written by a truly original voice.
Dundas has a Masters in Creative Writing and has had several short stories and dark fairy tales published. She has been shortlisted for awards including the Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award 2017 for Goblin and is currently working on her second novel.
“I was fifteen years old when Monsta was buried and I was glad. It was the end of a childhood born blue.”
Goblin is a love letter to the outcasts, rebels and underdogs, both human and animal. Witness to a lesser known horror of the Second World War, the voluntary massacre of London’s pets, Goblin leads a feral life in the shadow of the Blitz, before escaping to Cornwall as an evacuee. Told with glowing prose, the heady days of summer and first love are richly educed, alongside the brutal treatment Goblin faces at the hands of those ‘caring’ for her. Her exhilarating love is cruelly cut short when Goblin returns to the destruction of war-torn London. Abandoned, Goblin begins collecting stray animals, creating a chaotic but happy home. Although works of fact and fiction focused on the Second World War abound, none have focused on this strange and macabre massacre, apparently carried out without Government instruction. Dundas has clearly researched and explored this shadowy part of history, leading to an evocative and thoughtful meditation on the meaning behind this and the true impact of the terror of war.
“He held up his left hand, fingers splayed to show me the webbing…This sure was love at first sight.”
a thoughtful, compelling debut which cuts you to the quick with tenderness
Dundas has produced a dazzling narrative and expertly weaves the past and present together to create a dreamy tale populated with vividly realised characters and hauntingly gritty beauty. Dundas is a bold and uncompromising writer who is unafraid to shine a spotlight on society’s cruel exclusion of those who are different. Goblin is in constant flux, changing and becoming, loving and expressing herself in her own Goblin-runt way, without remorse even in the face of animosity and violence. This results in a story with great power and sensitivity which encourages exploration of our own construction and the means with which we shape our own reality.
“I was where I belonged. End the story here. The past be damned.”
Goblin is at once heart-wrenching and hopeful. Even in the darkest times there is love and light, from her relationship with her brother to her eventual adoption into a lovingly eccentric family. Throughout times of sadness and difficulty Goblin retreats into her storytelling, a means of self-protection which simultaneously strengthens and restricts her- by escaping from her reality, Goblin can survive but she is never able to escape the past and the trauma she has faced. As we learn, the past casts a long shadow for Goblin and the insidious vines threaten to strangle her. When a chance encounter forces Goblin to return to London during the 2011 riots she must confront a long-buried secret. This melancholy finale is a fitting ending to a life of great love and significant loss, wonderfully conjured by Dundas.
Dundas has written a complex entertaining novel which uses sinister surrealism and a hint of magic to play with themes of identity, sexuality, and gender. This is a book for those who challenge the status quo and seeks to empower them to be the most authentic version of themselves. Dundas’ lyrical debut also encourages the reader to question everything, from Goblin’s memory of events to her treatment by those around her. Unflinching, raw and diamond bright, this is a wonderful work of fiction which will surely establish Dundas as a formidable and invigorating voice.
Goblin is a thoughtful, compelling debut which cuts you to the quick with tenderness and makes you love the blade. Dundas explores the power of history, sexuality and love with care and compassion and Goblin, a beguiling outcast adventurer, speaks clearly to the animal in all of us.
Written by Ever Dundas and published by Saraband, Goblin is available now.
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