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A Reciprocal Love Affair With Books

Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.

Review Heart-Beast by Tanith Lee

Heart-Beast - Tanith Lee

 

So, I actually started reading this, I think, three years ago, for my October TBR, and went into a really bad reading slump, so put it down. But the book left an incredible impression on me, and I've been looking for an excuse to pick it up again.

 

Tantih Lee justifies the existence of purple prose. She wallows in Gothic Victorian excess, and turns it into a lush sort of poetry. The book itself feels as if it could be put right beside Frankenstein and Dracula, the tone perfectly in step, the atmosphere rich if slightly more forthright than it was in the nineteenth century. It's a perfect companion to Shelley and Stoker, weaving werewolf lore seamlessly into the time period, bountiful with knowledge and appreciation with Gothic literature.

 

If I were to simplify, I'd call it Wuthering Heights with a werewolf, which is shockingly accurate. Subtext abounds, about marriage and sex, about traditional gender roles in the Victorian world. And the last hundred pages in particular descend into an almost feverish hypnagogic state.

 

And that was why it lost a star, too, because through all of this lushness of prose, through scenes of sex and viscera, the novel itself is kind of cold, and the characters most definitely are, to the point that it's difficult to guess what any one of them is really thinking, or why they do what they do. It's a fantastic novel to appreciate for its artistry, but, despite the passion it's meant to exhibit, an unemotional one. Beautiful and cold, just like the Worth household at the very end.