The Beguiling

The Beguiling

Book - 2020
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Lucy is a lapsed-Catholic whose adolescent pretentions to sainthood are unexpectedly revived. It all starts when her cousin Zoltan, in hospital following a bizarre incident at a party, offers her a disturbing deathbed confession. Lucy's grief takes an unusual turn: Zoltan's death appears to have turned her into a magnet for the unshriven. Lucy is transformed into a self-described "flesh-and-blood Wailing Wall" as strangers unburden themselves to her. She becomes addicted to the dark stories, finds herself jonesing for hit after hit. As the confessions pile up, Lucy begins to wonder if Zoltan's death was as random and unscripted as it appeared. She clutches at alarming synchronicities, seeks meaning in the stories of strangers. Why do the stories seem connected to each other or eerily echo elements of her life? Could it be because Lucy has her own transgressions to acknowledge? And then there is that stubbornly resurfacing past, like a tell-tale ribbon of hair snagged on a fish hook.
Publisher: [Toronto] : Hamish Hamilton, 2020.
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780735239357
Branch Call Number: GARTN
Characteristics: 275 pages ; 22 cm

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selfishgiant
Dec 28, 2020

Globe 100 2020 Debut novel short listed for the Writer's Trust Prize. Exquisite writing and one sentence 45 lines long.

u
Urbano
Sep 27, 2020

"To beguile: To distract the attention of; divert; To amuse or charm; delight or fascinate."

Oh my! Zsuzsi Gartner's novel is full of beguilement: distracting and amusing, fascinating and delightful. Reading it felt like looking through a kaleidoscope at the surreal world of Hieronymus Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" while riding a tilt-a-whirl. Quite often, I wasn't quite sure what was going on, but I knew I was enjoying the ride.

The story (as I understood it): Lucy, our protagonist, is overwhelmed with grief over the strange and untimely death of her beloved cousin. Abandoning husband and newborn, she moves to Vancouver and, while patching together a new life and trying to make sense of her past, begins to notice that strangers are compelled to confess their deepest, inky-black secrets to her. She becomes a sort of sin-eater, addicted to numbing her grief and shame through listening to others' tales of past misdeeds. One tale leads to the next, taking the reader on a sometimes dizzying quantum journey through space and time.

This skeletal summary sounds rather gloomy yet Gartner's novel pulses with life and laugh-out-loud humour. Her prose has a snap-crackle-pop to it that's all too rare and her characters--especially Lucy--brim with life.

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