Julia Fine, "What Should be Wild" (Harper, 2018)


“What should be wild” is really asking who should be wild? Simultaneously a plea against the domestication of women, a unique fairy tale, and impressive literary fiction, this novel explores the taming of women through the experiences of the modern Maisie and some of her female ancestors, who sought shelter in a magical forest. Maisie Cothay, whose story unfolds in the present, is frightened of her unique gift. Just her touch will take life, but also return it. Though she can revive those she kills, her somewhat inept, father confines her to the grounds, spending their time together in devising meaningless tests, which bring neither of them much insight. In the first few chapters, Maisie is presented like an artifact in a contemporary version of a medieval tower, with a loving jailor. Deep in the forest, there is another version of Maisie, a powerful supernatural girl with black eyes, who is slowly waking while Maisie reaches the brink of womanhood. The persecuted Blakely women who have fled to this forest throughout the centuries gather around the new arrival, both hoping, and fearing change. And they should fear. For while Maisie is civilized and complaint, the black-eyed girl in the forest is a creature of appetite, feral and without compassion. She metes out death. But is she evil? Read closely, and ponder. Julia Fine's What Should be Wild (Harper, 2018) is a novel well suited for writing that thoughtful English paper. Should you find the symbolism and the themes too strenuous, you can always luxuriate in the beautifully writing. Here, for instance, Lucy, one of the Blakely women, finds shelter in the woods. “The usual sounds of the forest—plaintive owls, scuttling wood mice, the papery screech and flutter of young bats—have been usurped by the lullaby of ancient temperate trees, a sentient quiet, a deep and subtle whisper.” There’s even a touch of horror for those who like to be a little scared. Truly a joy to read, Fine’s bold debut has me anticipating her future work.
Gabrielle Mathieu is the author of the historical fantasy Falcon series (The Falcon Flies Alone, and the upcoming The Falcon Strikes.) She blogs about travel and her books at http://gabriellemathieu.com/. You can also follow her on Twitter to get updates about new podcasts and more: @GabrielleAuthor.
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