Sunday, August 02, 2020
Dark and Deepest Red, by Anne-Marie McLemore
It's a strange story, often difficult to follow, but beautifully written. In general McLemore and their books are this way: thick and meaty prose combined with strange magic and deep meaning. It makes for slow reading and a great deal of effort. In this case, I'm not so sure that they succeeded as much as they had hoped.
The story intends to combine a real historical event from the summer of 1518, when a large number of women were indeed afflicted with an uncontrollable urge to dance, with Han Christian Anderson's "The Red Shoes." It's clever but the author assumes the reader will make connections and be as obsessed. You can see McLemore's excitement, but it's hard not to feel left behind. In addition, attempts to work in themes about gender identity and sexual agency, while well-intentioned, felt forced and like an attempt to give a pretty and clever fairy tale some last minute gravitas. Overall, I found the novel to be a collection of ideas that never really gels.