(PS Publishing, £10, 93 pages, signed, numbered, limited edition
paperback, also available as signed, numbered, limited edition hardback,
published September 2004; ISBN: 1902880900.)
My Death is living an isolated
life in Scotland. She is a writer but has not written anything since
the death of her husband, Allan, from a heart attack a year and a half
previously. Despite her modest lifestyle, money is running low so she
agrees to meet with her agent in Edinburgh.
narrator of Lisa Tuttle's novella
She decides to visit the National Gallery and there sees a painting,
Circe, 1928, by W.E. Logan. The model for the painting was a
young art student named Helen Ralston. Logan and Ralston developed a
scandalous relationship, and she subsequently went on to become a successful
writer. Tuttle's protagonist sees echoes of her own life in Ralston's
and, with her editor's eager approval, she decides to write Ralston's
The project proceeds faster than she could have thought possible. First
she discovers a shocking painting by the young Ralston. Then she meets
the woman herself, now ninety-six years old.
If all of the above sounds decidedly unlike a genre story, that's because,
for the most part, it is. We're at least two-thirds of the way through
this novella before there is any hint of anything fantastical (actually
there are probably earlier hints but it's unlikely you could spot them
on first reading). It is only within the final ten pages that the story
undergoes a genre transformation.
I say this not to discourage you from reading it--because this is a
meticulously constructed novella, quite wonderful in many ways. First
and foremost it is a powerful character study of someone bereaved, who
has to pick up the pieces and try to start over. I enjoy Lisa Tuttle's
writing enormously but she does seem to occupy the territory at the
outermost fringes of genre.
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