Sophie Mackintosh - Cursed Bread & her other works

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Sophie Mackintosh, who I love, is releasing her third novel Cursed Bread in March. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

If you eat the bread, you'll die, he said. The statement made no sense, but it filled me with an electric dread.

Elodie is the baker's wife. A plain, unremarkable woman, ignored by her husband and underestimated by her neighbours, she burns with the secret desire to be extraordinary. One day a charismatic new couple appear in town - the ambassador and his sharp-toothed wife, Violet - and Elodie quickly falls under their spell. All summer long she stalks them through the shining streets: inviting herself into their home, eavesdropping on their coded conversations, longing to be part of their world.

Meanwhile, beneath the tranquil surface of daily life, strange things are happening. Six horses are found dead in a sun-drenched field, laid out neatly on the ground like an offering. Widows see their lost husbands walking up the moonlit river, coming back to claim them. A teenage boy throws himself into the bonfire at the midsummer feast. A dark intoxication is spreading through the town, and when Elodie finally understands her role in it, it will be too late to stop.

Audacious and mesmerising, Cursed Bread is a fevered confession, an entry into memory's hall of mirrors, a fable of obsession and transformation. Sophie Mackintosh spins a darkly gleaming tale of a town gripped by hysteria, envy like poison in the blood, and desire that burns and consumes.

I loved her first two novels, The Water Cure and Blue Ticket. Both deal with themes of femininity, repression, hope and escape. Her prose is, at times, exquisite. I think of this passage from Blue Ticket often:

That spot was his favourite part of me and I couldn’t see why, what had made him fixate on this unassuming piece of bone among all the things that made me up. I had an idea it might be about fragility, and so I didn’t want to ask, I didn’t want to be disappointed or to disappoint, for I was not fragile, I was not protectable, I was dark wind and dust blowing across a landscape, and there was nothing anybody could do for me.

If you like this kind of writing, then you’ll love her. The brutality of the events that happen to her characters is always wrapped in this beautiful prose. It’s like receiving a silk-wrapped present that is delicately scented and then you open it and the box contains a pair of palmetto bugs. I mean that in a good way. I am clearly not a professional writer. For this reason, a lot of the horror in her work is slow burn, and effective for this reason. She is fond of drip dripping details that add up to a large and horrifying picture, and she does it well.

In addition to her novels she’s also written a load of short stories. I thought I had reviewed The Water Cure but it looks like I just reviewed the stories. The stories vary in quality - and I’d totally buy a collection of them should that happen. Here are my reviews of the stories & links to stories themselves (obvs don’t have to read my reviews, but in case anyone had read these stories and was interested in discussing them)?

The Running Ones

Self-improvement, Communion, Grace

May Day, The Weak Spot, The Last Rite of the Body

Of these, I remember liking The Weak Spot and Self-improvement the most. I’m always interested in seeing how authors do short stories if I’ve only read their longer form work before; I personally think she’s better at a novel but the short stories are worth your time if you think her work might be something you’d be interested in.

Tl;dr I am excited for this book and hope it continues on from the promise of her first two.

here you go, muttonchops Yaz (gyac), Tuesday, 31 January 2023 15:47 (one month ago) link

Oho. Will check library, thanks.

dow, Tuesday, 31 January 2023 18:19 (one month ago) link

Have only read blue ticket because it was a selection for a dystopian book club, and it was probably the best thing I read for that - def interested to read more

piedro àlamodevar (wins), Tuesday, 31 January 2023 20:08 (one month ago) link

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