Search This Blog

Monday, October 06, 2008

Wild Life

Gloss, Molly. Wild Life. I had never herd of Molly Gloss until I received a copy of Wild Life from a dear friend with the highest recommendation. She had read and loved Gloss' previous novels, but considers this one the best.

Within a few pages, I had fallen in love with the voice of Charlotte Bridger Drummond through her diary entries beginning in 1905 - crisp, wry, arrogant, funny. A single mother of five boys who makes her living by writing "women's adventure stories," Charlotte lets us know her commitment to writing, even as she admits to writing "lowbrow" fiction. She lives in an Oregon backwater, but has also had the benefit of having lived with her feminist aunt in New York in her teens. Charlotte is a product of a number of disparate influences.

When the daughter of her housekeeper disappears, Charlotte determines to help in the search. Here is the first of many strange twists that make this novel seem like more than one book. Both content and style begin to change as this serious note is introduced, and Charlotte resolves to head into the wilderness and toward the remote logging camps in search of the little girl.

Gloss addresses many themes in this novel, all set against the huge frontier backdrop of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900's. She covers social, cultural, anthropological, environmental, and historical topics from the microcosmic point of view; the novel twists and turns and re-makes itself throughout, as Charlotte's experiences twist and turn and she finds herself re-made, altered.

It is a strange, highly original novel. An odd, difficult to categorize novel - historical fiction? speculative fiction? psychological? Charlotte's favorite authors included Jules Verne, Poe, and Mary Shelley...

Molly Gloss takes the reader on an adventure and presents a number of ideas to consider, but leaves the explanations open.

Fiction. 2000. 255 pages.


  1. New to me as well, but certainly sounds interesting enough to try and find over here.

  2. You've summed this up perfectly! I agree, it is hard to categorize, but is an enjoyable read. I read it a few years ago now, but still remember it quite well. A good sign, I hope!

  3. This time of year I have keep my eyes particularly open for books that might need to find their way under the Christmas tree for my wife. This definitely sounds like it could be one of those books. I think I would enjoy it as well to be honest with you.

  4. I absolutely love books in journal (or epistolary) form - and this one sounds wonderful.
    Oh dear - yet another for my tbr pile!

  5. Ann - It is interesting and quite different from anything I've read. Still pondering...

    Melanie - I'm so glad to hear that you've read it. I think Oregonians are probably more familiar with Gloss, but she is worth wider familiarity.

    Carl - Actually, I think you would enjoy it, Carl. There are several areas that might interest you. There is something (hard to account for, though) that reminds me of House on the Borderland by William Hodgson Hope that I read for your first RIP challenge. The book just doesn't fit into any one genre!

    teabird - It is a strange book that has you tring to decipher the reliability of the narrator...even early on.

  6. It does sound very interesting! Like teabird I have a thing for epistolary novels, and I also tend to like novels that defy genre classification. I will keep an eye out for this one.

  7. I'm sitting here trying to decide if I would like the book or become frustrated with it. My library has a copy, so I think I'll flip through it and see if it grabs me. Excellent review, as always, Jenclair!

  8. Nymeth - :) I hope you read it and can help me decide the classification!

    bookfool - I don't believe this novel will appeal to everyone and partly because of the changing style and content. I'll be interested to see what you think!

  9. This book sounds so familiar! I'm off to check 15 years of reading diaries!

  10. bybee - I hate it when that happens!

  11. This sounds like a great book! I'm pretty sure I've heard about this book before, but your review has definitely intrigued me.

    I discovered your blog via Alpha Heroes’ bloghopping challenge.

  12. avisannchild - Thanks for visiting!