Sunday, 29 September 2013

Review: In The House Upon The Dirt Between The Lake And The Woods by Matt Bell

I had seen this book mentioned quite often since its release and always in a positive light, so I thought I would see what the fuss was all about. Though I didn’t actually know what the book was about.


Sometimes I like starting a book with no prior knowledge, especially as some blurbs can be misleading and I have been very disappointed before now because I read a book based on the blurb.

The library did not have a long queue of customers waiting for this book, I guess my area haven’t heard about it yet, therefore it arrived within 2 days of me requesting it and I dove straight into it.

Immediately I was captured by Bell’s writing style, so unique, lyrical, visceral, like he wrote exactly as he was thinking with no restraints of correct form or structure.

“Beneath the unscrolling story of new sun and stars and then-lonely moon, she began to sing some new possessions into the interior of our house, and between the lake and the woods I heard her songs become something stronger than ever before. I returned to the woods to cut more lumber, so that I too might add to our household, might craft for her a crib and a bassinet, a table for changing diapers, all the other furnishings she desired. We labored together, and soon our task seemed complete, our house readied for what dreams we shared - the dream I had given her, of family, of husband and wife, father and mother, child and child - and when the earliest signs of my wife’s first pregnancy came they were attended with joy and celebration.”

However, his writing style wasn’t just lyrical, it was so descriptive, so rich, bringing strong, vivid images to your mind, like the one below that made me a little nauseous!

“Into my body I partook what my wife’s had rejected, and while she buried her face in the red ruin of our blankets I swallowed it whole-its ghost and its flesh small enough to have in my fist like an extra finger, to fit into my mouth like an extra tongue, to slide farther in without the use of teeth - and I imagined that perhaps I would succeed where she had failed, that my want for family could again give our child some home, some better body within which to grow.”

and this one that is a perfect example of Bell’s descriptions throughout the book that bought forth many horrifying images into my head!

 “The bear that stood before me now stomped unsteadily on its meat-thin limbs, its fur-torn, bone-sprung body led wobblingly forward by its squared head, that skull burst through tearing skin of face and snout. Orbital bone gleamed bright around the jaundice eyes  it was meant to protect, those spheres drooped upon distressed tendon, sleepy on frayed muscle, and my eyes roved mad too, took in all its shape, its stomping stance, its claws flexing free of its threatening paw. It’s voice tore from its lungs, the sound of that roar so fierce it stumbled me even before the bear tensed its body forward, ready to lean into the angry first step of its charge – and as it roared again I heard its true voice for the first time, a speech like no other.”

I could not stop reading because the writing drew me into the story in such a way that I could feel the husband’s pain, smell the rotten flesh, fear the dark as if I was him or inside him, like his fingerling son.

If I got distracted reading this, I would be surprised by my surroundings which, I feel, is always a sign you are thoroughly enjoying yourself!

I was nearly finished with this book and quite prepared to say that this is a magnificent piece of work, however, there is one thing that stops me from saying that. The story did drag on a little bit towards the end, and I’m probably not quite clever enough to fully grasp exactly what the writer was trying to say, so I felt a little confused by the ending.


I would read this book over and over again though as I just am so in love with his writing style and am hugely envious!

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