I have to be honest and tell you that The Night Brother by Rosie Garland isn’t what I was expecting at all from the blurb. That’s not a bad thing! I was pushed out of my comfort zone a few times which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re looking for an unusual historical read this could be just what you’re look for.
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1289 KB
Print Length: 309 pages
Publisher: The Borough Press (1 Jun. 2017)
Rich are the delights of late nineteenth-century Manchester for young siblings Edie and Gnome. They bicker, banter, shout and scream their way through the city’s streets, embracing its charms and dangers. But as the pair grow up, it is Gnome who revels in the night-time, while Edie wakes exhausted each morning, unable to quell a sickening sense of unease, with only a dim memory of the dark hours.
Confused and frustrated at living a half-life, she decides to take control, distancing herself from Gnome once and for all. But can she ever be free from someone who knows her better than she knows herself?
A dazzling and provocative novel of adventure and belonging, The Night Brother lures us to the furthermost boundaries of sexual and gender identity. With echoes of Orlando and Jekyll & Hyde, this is a story about the vital importance of being honest with yourself. Every part of yourself. After all, no-one likes to be kept in the dark.
This was one of those novels that in the earlier part of the story I could have given up on. I wasn’t emotionally invested in any of the characters but my enjoyment of the time, the setting and the writing kept me reading. I’m not sure when it changed for me, possibly when Edie sees a statue at the museum or maybe when she stops to listen to a suffragette rally – both are life changing for her. When I finished the story I felt bereft – no more Edie and no more Gnome in my life each day!
So … the story begins in Manchester in 1894 when Edie and Gnome are young children. Their mum, Cecily Margaret Latchford owns a beerhouse, The Comet. Edie tries everything to make her mum love her but when she realises she’s failed she withdraws and doesn’t stand up for herself. I despised Cecily for double standards and what she was willing to put Edie through. Gnome on other other hand is loved by their mum, he’s not afraid of anything. He’s a fighter. They’re opposites. The worlds they inhabit are opposite. I must admit I loved spending time with Gnome on Manchester’s streets. Rosie Garland’s writing is so evocative making everything stand out in sharp detail. Things change when Edie moves away (The Comet always felt depressing to me!) and I loved her job, nightlife and the friends she made. Edie and Gnome’s lives are fraught with misunderstandings, light and shadow, love and hate, fight and surrender.
Sexual and gender identity … this story is a unique exploration of the masculine and feminine. From the Gospel of Thomas 22:
When you make the two one, and when you make the inside as the outside, and the outside as the inside, and the upper as the lower, and when you make the male and the female into a single one, so that the male is not male and the female not female, and when you make eyes in place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then shall you enter [the kingdom].
As I mentioned, there are times when I was pushed out of my comfort zone but those are the times that prompted me to think deeply and tangle me in emotions. I loved the knotty feeling, of not shying away but exploring the shadows and bringing it all together. The Night Brother won’t be for everyone. You’ll need to step outside of convention and what is acceptable to realise the whole. I loved it 🙂
The Night Brother is available now in Kindle and Hardcover with the paperback publishing May 2018.
Born in London to a runaway teenager, Rosie has always been a cuckoo in the nest. She is an eclectic writer and performer, ranging from singing in Goth band The March Violets through touring with the Subversive Stitch exhibition in the 90s, to her current incarnation as Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen, cabaret chanteuse, incomparable compere and electrifying poet. She has published five solo collections of poetry and her award-winning short stories, poems and essays have been widely anthologized. She is is the author of Vixen and her debut novel, The Palace of Curiosities won Book of the Year in the Co-op Respect Awards 2013 and was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.
Connect with Rosie Garland