The Corset & The Jellyfish, Nick Bantock
Received to review via Netgalley
I loved Nick Bantock’s Griffin & Sabine trilogy, though I haven’t read the follow-ups, so of course I was intrigued by the sound of this when I saw it come up in Netgalley. It’s a collection of microfiction, but it offers a challenge as well: there’s a link between these drabbles, if you’re dedicated enough to seek it out.
I wasn’t, I must confess: in ebook form, and reading on my desktop so I could see the images in colour, it just wasn’t comfortable/fun to try to flick back and forth. I’ll be eager to see what other people make of the mystery.
For the stories themselves, I’m not entirely certain what I think. On the one hand, I’m very picky about my microfiction, and these didn’t quite grab me. On the other hand, something about them got under my skin and made me want to get back to writing some microfiction of my own — and that usually happens when something a little bit magical is happening. I wonder if this is a collection that will grow on me — especially when wiser heads solve the mysteries of the links between stories.
The Golden Mean, Nick Bantock
I loved The Golden Mean maybe a little bit less than the other books, even though the plot definitely advances here. It’s the end of the original trilogy, and there’s just so much that we don’t know because of the frustrating format. It makes sense that we can’t know it, but it’s still infuriating to get to the end and be left with so many questions about the story and what exactly happened. I’m very curious about that last postcard, don’t get me wrong! I’d love to read more!
But… this particular volume felt a little bit thinner, and the fact that the later books are all available second-hand only (and expensive) is really sad.
It’s still absolutely beautiful, with letters each in their own envelopes (though the envelopes are a little less well stuck to the page in this than in my copies of the first two books). It’s a lovely, tactile, multimedia experience, and I thoroughly recommend it even with its frustrations. I’ll continue reading the series when I can, though sadly it won’t be soon, unless I have a Fairy Godmother somewhere!
Sabine’s Notebook, Nick Bantock
Sabine’s Notebook more or less immediately follows Griffin & Sabine, and has the same format. Though they were so close to meeting in the first book, Griffin gets scared at the last minute: can he have imagined Sabine? Is it possible that he’s invented her somehow? So he runs, and his letters to Sabine come from all over the world as he tries to figure things out, travelling to Florence, to Greece, to Japan… and attempts to visit Sabine’s home island.
Sabine, meanwhile, stays in Griffin’s flat in London, giving him the time to get things figured out. And then — well, I’ll let you discover it for yourselves, but suffice it to say that I loved this one as well. The ending is another kick in the gut, same as the ending of the first, and the letters between the two of them are tender and hopeful amidst the fear. And of course, the illustrations are beautiful, and the format with the envelopes and postcards remains really engaging.
I’m keen to see what the last book will do. In a way, the plot of this book is kind of demanded by the format. Once they meet, the conceit kind of falls away. So I’ll be interested to see how that gets resolved…
Griffin & Sabine, Nick Bantock
Holy moly, this is lovely. I was urged to get this to do a review on it for Postcrossing (check out my others on the Postcrossing blog!), so it was one of the things I bought with my Christmas gift cards… and I’m glad I did. It’s an epistolary story, showing both the fronts and backs of postcards and — in little pouches, from which you have to pull out actual letters which are handwritten (Sabine) or typewritten (Griffin) — letters sent between Griffin (an artist who creates postcards) and Sabine (an artist who illustrates stamps).
Sabine has been seeing Griffin’s art in her dreams for years, and reaches out to him via a postcard once she finally finds out who he is and how to contact him (through running across his artwork). After just a few postcards are exchanged, she proves to him that she knows his art like no one else can, and they quickly forge a connection despite the physical distance between them. It’s a love story, and a mystery: how are they connected? Why are they connected? What does it mean?
It’s a lovely reading experience; the pouches are a nice gimmick, and they really give you a sense of discovery. I’m not super great with visual detail, but the fronts of the postcards (illustrated by Griffin and Sabine, in the story) and the decorations on envelopes and letters add quite a bit. It’s a very short read, but worthwhile — and that ending! I’ve ordered the next two books.
It’s been a while since I posted one of these here! But I’m trying to be more present again now… So let’s have a reading check-in!
What are you currently reading?
Long Live the Post Horn! by Vigdis Hjorth. It is… not really my thing; the rambling reflective narration is not working for me. It’s mostly for Postcrossing’s blog, though, so I’m forging my way along, slowly. Presumably the main character is going to care about working with the Norwegian postal service sometime soon.
I’m also partway through rereading The Gabriel Hounds, which I have fond memories of — partially memories of buying it while I was in Italy, my BA graduation present oh these many years ago, and reading it on the train between Naples and Rome.
What have you recently finished reading?
Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock, also for Postcrossing’s blog — it never rains but it pours; I’m stocking up blog posts for the next little while in case I come over all contrary and don’t feel like reading anything about postcards/postal systems. (This is bound to happen at some point.) I loved it; it’s a very tactile experience, since it actually contains the letters in actual envelope-like pouches, so you have to carefully slip them out and unfold them. I’m intrigued by the mystery of it.
Before that was Holy Shit, by Melissa Mohr — thank you to whoever recommended me that, though I’ve forgotten who. It was great; the chapter on oath-taking in the Bible was particularly fascinating.
What will you be reading next?
Sadly, it will not be Sabine’s Notebook (the sequel to Griffin & Sabine) because that’s in the post to me, having been only ordered today when I closed Griffin & Sabine on that cliffhanger. As ever, the answer is probably a shrug emoji, though I do want to go back to and finish Monstrous Regiment (Terry Pratchett), and a revisit of A Wizard of Earthsea seems indicated, because it’s a book club book (we all got together and picked our favourite books, then 12 of those got picked out of the hat to serve as prompts for a year of reading) and I still haven’t read the illustrated edition.
What are you currently reading?