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REVIEW: Freakslaw by Jane Flett

REVIEW: Freakslaw by Jane Flett

Jane Flett’s debut, Freaks saladan odd duck. Priding itself on the strange (and sometimes absurd), this circus-themed novel is more Stephen King than wholesome family entertainment. It’s not exactly a horror novel or a straight-up fantasy novel. Like its characters, Freaks salad refuses to be neatly categorized. Although very different in detail, it reminds me of Heather Parry Orpheus Creates a Girlin terms of genre – literary, experimental and macabre, with a strong narrative voice. There are supernatural elements in the story, but they are incidental. In essence, Freaks salad It offers residents a glimpse into how the circus interacts with the people around it.

Freaks salad Set in 1990s Scotland, a strange circus – Freakslaw – descends on the small town of Pitlaw, confronting the town with the strange and unusual. Gloria, a fortune teller and storyteller; her daughter Nancy, an acrobat, both witches; Gretchen, a transvestite and self-proclaimed “gender pest”; and a young woman known as Pin Gal, a literal human pincushion, among many others. They are unpredictable and fracture the collective psyche of the Pitlaw residents. Yet they fascinate the town’s younger generation, particularly Ruth, a good, hard-working girl, and Derek, a boy on the cusp of adulthood, discovering his sexuality. All the characters are darker (and more broken) than they first appear, working both as general archetypes and as personal examples of how small, conservative towns deal with difference.

The novel clashes with society. It is disturbing at times and certainly not an easy read. Freaks salad It has a strong narrative voice, an omniscient narrator who tells the story in bits and pieces, shifting between perspectives and adjusting how much she tells the reader. In this respect, it fits nicely into the trend toward experimental, quiet, and creepy horror novels. While there are supernatural elements to this one, it deals more with the human. Its 1990s setting, combined with the strangeness that Freakslaw brings, works well to emphasize that many of the social problems encountered have not been improved for almost thirty years. It allows Flett to hold a mirror up to the reader, using his setting as an unfamiliar world, a kind of fantasy world.

Did I like it? Freaks salad? The honest answer is “I’m not sure.” To me, it’s a novel that’s more engaging than enjoyable, a novel that demands the reader’s attention and thought. It’s a novel I force my friends to read just to discuss. And that’s a great place for a first-time writer to be.

Read Freakslaw by Jane Flett