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What an amazing piece of writing this book is. At times I found myself wondering if it was autobiography, memoir, history or pure invention. Which author is writing which part? Are they all Hamish Clayton or is he inventing everything, including his own persona?
Certainly this is a brilliant, complex and cleverly interwoven work. Ghosts and imagined events – or are they real people and real events? – abound. Each section of the novel makes reference to the other parts. Characters appear and reappear – or is this a clever conceit of the author to make us think we know what’s happening when truthfully, it’s all quite mysterious?
The first part of the book is a work of fiction, ‘The City of Lost Things’, set in a post-earthquake-devasted Wellington. The central character, Gabriel North, explores what is left, and weaves his memories into it.
The second part, ‘In Dark Arches’, begins thus:
“Something happens in a forgotten corner of the world and then, years later in another corner, something else which seems random and unconnected. And yet a chain is made between them by chance; a pattern emerges and meaning is inferred.”
This, to me, is the essence of the book’s creativity. The connections made in the various aspects of the story, apparently by chance, but really by the author’s design, make you stop to think, to re-read, to check that what you have just read really is what appeared earlier in the text. It’s simply fascinating.
I don’t like repeating myself, but this is a wonderful creation; inventive, twisted, mysterious but ultimately all linked together.
I am off to find Wulf and see if the first book by Hamish Clayton is as good as this one.
Reviewed by Sue Esterman
The Pale North
by Hamish Clayton
Published by Penguin NZ