Wednesday 15 April 2020

Review: Friendship in Death by Elizabeth Singer Rowe

The last part of this anthology consists of only a selection from the text, which is a pity because if any text in this anthology deserves the chance to speak fully for itself it’s ‘Friendship in Death’ by Elizabeth Singer Rowe. The notion is not completely original, there’s a late classical model, but there’s something very strange about the central notion, dead people writing to the living.

The selection is such: The first is a letter to an atheist Lord from a friend declaring that atheism might not be the way forward; the second is the two year old son of a countess asking why she mourns his death when he’s having a great time with the cherubim, the third is a woman now glad she died before running off with a young lover, the fourth is a very confusing story about mislaid babies which may mean he is the recipient’s dead lover and brother and the fifth is a dead brother telling his sister how great it is to be dead.

It strikes me that this book points to the morbid and sentimental excesses of the Victorian Era in all of it’s cloying unpleasantness. Or it’s yet another innovative way to tell the same four stories about rakes, shepherds and such. I’m not sure. Perhaps it makes better sense as a whole.

Whichever it is, these extracts are such an unsettling and destabilising way of ending the anthology, I have to applaud them.

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