The Doll's Alphabet // Camilla Grudova
The Doll’s Alphabet is a collection of short stories that are whimsical and yet deeply disturbing; childlike, and yet gruesomely dark. The stories are each set in a dystopian world, all of which are dripping with cryptic fairy tale allegories.
Although these stories are definitely horrific, the book doesn’t draw typical ideas and themes from the horror genre, making this collection more literary steampunk. The book has been marketed as the marriage between Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, which becomes a fairly obvious comparison as the stories reveal their many dark secrets.
The stories attempt to cast light on the absurdities of contemporary society in various twisted metaphors. This is not a collection that can be devoured in one sitting, but rather one that needs to ruminated over, one or two stories at a time.
The most successful story in this entire collection was the first, “Unstitching.” In terms of understanding the author’s writing style, and the cultural themes the narrative deemed important, “Unstitching,” is the best representative. The first sentence in this opening story begins as follows:
“One afternoon, after finishing a cup of coffee in her living room,
Greta discovered how to unstitch herself.
Her clothes, skin and hair fell from her like the
peeled rind of a fruit, and her true body stepped out.”
The longest story in this collection, “Waxy,” also does an excellent job at shedding light on very relevant political issues. In this alternate society, women are considered disfavored for not having a man to care for. The protagonist of this story ends up finding a man on the streets that has terrible incontinence, and offers him a place to stay so that her neighbors can see that she is capable of caring for a man. In this same society, The men are supposed to provide for the family, by studying for, and then taking Exams, that bring in the income for their household. Men must register to take Exams; if they do not, their neighbours can blackmail them, especially if – as happens here – their women have children.
Other stories, such as “The Mermaid,” and “The Gothic Society,” seem to stray so far from the thematic elements the other stories express so well, that it makes the merge into the next stories seem startling and abrupt.
These is a collection that will keep haunting you days after reading it, and its fall release is absolutely appropriate.
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Out October 10th, this collection is now available to purchase. You can purchase it directly from Coffee House Press’s website here.
*Thank you to the publisher, Coffee House Press, for sending me an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review*