Sunday, November 08, 2009

ISIS by Douglas Clegg

I have been a fan of Douglas Clegg’s work for several years. I first discovered him through his novel The Infinite. A spooky and enchanting haunted house story, which turned out to be the third novel in the Harrow series. Harrow is an old estate in the Hudson Valley that has seen more than its share of evil. The books all feature Harrow, but they are each very different—each explores the haunted place from a different angle and time, and each is very, very good.

I recently read a new Douglas Clegg story that reminded me, just a little, of my first experience with his writing. It is a novella published in hardcover and fully illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. The title: Isis.
Iris Villiers is a young girl—lonely and isolated—in the family estate. Her father is steadily away with his work, and her mother is ill with tonic and despair. Iris’s only joy is her brother Spence. The two wander the large estate and play. They create games and, based on a play they performed one summer, they take to calling each other Isis and Osiris. Their world is one of fortune, if a bit empty, until an accident changes Iris forever.

Isis is a haunting tale. It has the feel of a fairy-tale blackened with a supernatural yearning and loneliness. It chronicles the tenuous grasp humanity has on its destiny and how tightly we are held by the past. The prose is simple and wispy—it is the voice of a girl who never really had much, but who is desperate to keep the little she does have.

It is short—113 pages with a dozen or more black and white illustrations—but the meaning and intricacies of the story linger long after the book is closed. Isis is a genre story with teeth. It is literate, interesting, entertaining and very, very smooth. It is absolutely a pleasure to read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Harvey was Iris's favorite brother, not Spence. Spence was the bad one.