Pseudotooth is Verity Holloway’s debut novel. As I’ve come to expect from publishers Unsung Stories, Pseudotooth is a unique read! and one I have no hesitation in recommending for those who enjoy sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian novels.
Pseudotooth is an adult take on ‘portal fantasy’, boldly tackling issues of trauma responses, social difference and our conflicting desires for purity and acceptance.
Aisling Bloom is a young woman beset by unexplained blackouts, pseudo-seizures that have baffled both the doctors and her family. Sent to recuperate in the Suffolk countryside, she seeks solace in the work of William Blake and writing her journal, filling its pages with her visions of Feodor, an East Londoner haunted by his family’s history back in Russia.
The discovery of a Tudor priest hole and its disturbed former inhabitant lead Aisling into a meeting with the enigmatic Chase and on to an unfamiliar town where the rule of Our Friend is absolute and those deemed unfit and undesirable have a tendency to disappear into The Quiet…
This bold new work of literary fantasy blurs the lines between dream and reality, asking troubling questions about those who society shuns, and why.
Beginning with the investigation into Aisling’s pseudo-seizures, the picture painted is heavy and cloying. Beverley, a mother who has never fulfilled her duty of care to keep her safe, drops Aisling at great aunt Edythe’s in Suffolk while she goes to live with an ex in a loft conversion in Hackney. Edythe is Victorian in manner and expectations leaving Aisling isolated after being shunned by the mainstream. Great uncle Robert gives some kind of normality to life although there’s something he’s not saying … Aisling has been told as therapy to journal and in a trance, she writes about Feodora. A boy with Russian heritage who experiences depravity on many levels.
As soon as we step through to the the dystopian parallel world I knew I was going to love it! Myths come alive with settings and characters. Life with Tor is surreal. Even though there is darkness attached to Tor, I loved the opposites of life with Edythe and life within Tor’s home. A Saturnine heaviness with both of them (duty, responsibilities, expectations) with the illusion of opposites. It wasn’t so hard to imagine that a place like this exists. A despotic ruler. Life crumbling down all around. Fear.
I thought the characterisations were excellent. The appearance of Aisling belies the strength that lies beneath. She surrenders herself totally to the experiences and situations she finds herself in. We could learn from her!
I never worked out how the characters connected until it was there in front of me. Fabulous how it ties everything together. Very creative.
Pseudotooth captivated me. Yes it is surreal. Yes it is mythical. Tie that in with childhood trauma and abandonment and a world that needs healing and you have a complexity of emotions.
Don’t let the cover or the title put you off. Both are symbolic and of course have meaning but you probably wouldn’t choose this book to read from a Kindle/bookshelf. You would be missing out on so much if this is a genre for you!
Verity Holloway writes speculative fiction and historical non-fiction. Born in Gibraltar in 1986, she holds an MA in Literature from Cambridge’s Anglia Ruskin University, focusing on the poems of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Her fiction is inspired by all things medical, historical, and religious, with a magical realist bent. Find her at verityholloway.com, and Twitter @Verity_Holloway .