Where I End is known as Sophie White’s “literary debut”. Fans of the writer, columnist, and podcaster’s three previous novels may find this an odd depiction, but the publishers at Tramp Press seem eager to distinguish the new effort. this with her commercial novels for women. In any case, White’s latest work is a big departure from her earlier novels about the worlds of social media, influential culture and life in the affluent southern Co Dublin.
Where I End Set on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, the geographical location is inspired by Inis Meáin, where White spent a summer researching the novel, though the similarities end in there.
As the novel begins, we learn that the tourism board is inviting visitors to experience “a part of perfectly preserved old island life”, with a newly opened museum and a promotional campaign. Admirable foxes describe the island as a “string of time”, an unspoiled oasis for wild urbanites to “go wild” and return to nature.
However, for 19-year-old Aoileann, our narrator, the island is a “hateful” place, a “dry ruin” where the landscape inspires only awe. She lives at home with her grandmother, Móraí, and the two share the duty of caring for Aoileann’s mother, a mute, immobile woman referred to not by her name, Aoibh, but as “the bed”.
Where I End more than delivering on the promise of an “f**ked-up story” alluded to in White’s opening dedication. Her accounts of the bed story are extremely disturbing and not for the faint of heart: a scene detailing how she has used her body to carve a message into the floor is particularly disturbing. haunting and truly a nightmare for this reader.
White also excels at charting Aoileann’s growing frustration with her mother and her desire to escape her caregiving responsibilities, which take her to violent, hateful extremes. Aoileann recalls her innocent childhood trying to form a bond with Aoibh: pressing her cheek to her mother’s face, curling up next to her in bed, pulling her mother’s arm around her and getting ready to speak.
As the years passed, Aoileann discovered that efforts to “feed a need (she) could not be named” was hurting her more than helping her. The longing for connection was gradually replaced by a cold bitter resentment.
Aoileann’s father visits once a month, before which Aoileann and Móraí have to go through painstaking preparations to ensure that Aoibh is clean and elegant, “sufficient for use”.
Their work and his infrequent visits made it easy for him to see her not as a bed object, but as a “tragic sick wife and mother”.
Aoileann commented: “He has the luxury of looking into the distance, reflecting on how she and Móraí have been “bound by duty”. Their daily contact with Aoibh and her passive torment extinguished their compassion.
These feelings are amplified by Aoileann’s isolation: among the small island community, no one is allowed to know her mother is still alive. The inhabitants kept their distance from Aoileann, fearing that she was somehow poisoned with scáth suarach anama (the stench of souls). Even her grandmother refuses to touch Aoileann or chat with her about anything other than their care routine.
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Aoileann watched the mothers on the island hold their babies, noticing how the children shook their hands with impatience, assuming their mother would always be by their side. For Aoileann, it hints at “the existence of an entire language (she) does not know. A dialect of thoughtless, thoughtless communication. “
Her world is turned upside down when an unexpected visitor arrives: Rachel, a young single mother, has been given an artist residency at the new museum, and has brought her baby Seamus to live. on the island for a month. When they met on the beach, Aoileann was shocked by Rachel’s warmth and friendliness. Suddenly, her smoldering yearning for family was aroused, overshadowing her intense erotic desires for Rachel’s body.
She agrees to help Rachel clear the table in her studio, and will soon secretly visit her house late at night – the only time she has to be alone – to watch Rachel breastfeed.
Aoileann is mesmerized by Rachel’s “abundance”, so unlike her “poor” mother and “extraordinary” grandmother, so unlike anything she has met on the island hostile. While Aoileann and her biological mother were “empty”, Rachel and her baby were plump, “loving pink”.
As Aoileann continues to push the boundaries, White remains steadfast in dealing with the pain of loneliness and the horror of her increasingly unstable behavior, even though she can’t resist taking a dip in a Cliché stories laugh crazy until the end.
Through Rachel’s struggle to soothe her baby and practice her art, White explores the challenges surrounding motherhood, work, and mental health – since the birth of her baby, Rachel finds it easy vulnerable, “open”, as if “anything can penetrate”. At the same time, Aoileann began to learn more about how her mother became incapacitated, and the cycles of neglect in her own family history.
White’s writing is startling and consequential, interspersed with repetitive passages of poetry and bringing home appropriate words or phrases from the text. Slow Recording needs a compelling character to capture the reader’s interest, and White has created a particularly surprising and memorable character in Aoileann.
The morbid creativity of Irish writers including Bram Stoker, Charlotte Riddell and J Sheridan Le Fanu has been central to shaping the horror genre, a genre that a new generation of writers includes Jess Kidd, Sarah Davis-Goff and now White are dedicated to building. Where I End marks a striking addition to the rich Irish tradition of horror writing.
Horror: Where I Ended by Sophie White
Tramp Press, 232 pages, paperback, €15; eBooks £4.74
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/book-reviews/where-i-end-sophie-whites-haunting-horror-novel-is-nightmare-inducing-42078572.html Where I Ended: Sophie White’s Haunting Horror Novel Caused Nightmares