05 September 2016

Kaaron Warren's The Grief Hole is for all of us bloodsuckers

“I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”

Theresa thought she was beyond horror at human behaviour. She’d been submerged in it, surrounded by it, and risen above it, day by day, in her job. The contrast of THEM making her feel like a better person.
The Grief Hole

“Everyone’s a parasite”

-- Aunt Prudence in The Grief Hole

A band of angels couldn’t have conspired better to launch Kaaron Warren’s newest novel, The Grief Hole, upon the world at this theres-no- better time. 

This novel could have been so many things--a simplistic Avenger ripper, a Walmart-baroque peepshow into sadism and misogyny such as Game of Thrones, an unreadably dense but otherwise deeply thoughtful exploration of evil and do-gooding Nobel Prize for Literature winner.
But it is none and yet, all of these in parts.

The Grief Hole is, firstly, such a gripping and suspenseful read that its depths are only seen when looking back, for looking back is something your mind will do, regardless of your command. This page-turner does what literature should, explore without constrictions the unfathomed, the unseemly, and the avoided-at-all-cost—doing all this with no affectation in the telling, thereby making the impacts on anyone exposed to The Grief Hole unavoidable and irredeemable.

And as for the beauty of suffering, the artpieces intentional and otherwise, of unnatural death—the nuances of good and evil in this novel shine like the rainbow on rotting meat. The contrasts between people Prudence calls ‘monsters’ refuse to keep their clarity, undermining the very nature of ‘good’, though not with any of the usual faux-nihilism tosh. Both Theresa and the beloved international singing star Sol Evictus in The Grief Hole have much in common with Octave Mirbeau’s Clara in The Torture Garden (Le Jardin des Supplices) whose passion is, not a box seat at the Opera, but strolling participation at staged displays of exquisitely refined torture. 

Warren has a particular skill with characters, so lightly sketched they could be pencil-drawn instead of oil. Explicit three-dimensionality expressed in a simple line. Family members, the one true love, hired muscles, The Lacemaker, dogs, and of course, a host of ghosts. My favourite in this novel is the wise fool, Aunt Prudence. This isn’t the only work of Warren’s in which an aunt is a standout who I hope to meet again. Aunt Beryl (who, like Prudence, has astounding toenails) in Warren's short story Bridge of Fools is as outstanding as any aunt drawn by those other aunt-employers, Wodehouse and Saki.

The story itself is both fast-moving and, far from pitching us twists and horrors like fish to seals, seems to grow as organically as bread mould. The only aspect that I felt possibly contrived was the age of Theresa, who I reckon would be about 5 years older to have her experience in social work. However, I could be wrong. Perhaps what it took for her, was just that level of experience and naiveté. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the read, though as the saying goes, maybe ‘enjoy’ isn’t quite the word, especially about that all-too-visceral hole. One last terrific part, however, is a hint in the thrilling ending. It isn’t an ending at all. Prudence is incorrigible, and Theresa didn’t have to think twice to answer her own question, “Is that what I want?”

A rare book, this. I hope it flies out beyond genres and one language, to take its rightful, deeply unsettling place, in all good souls monsters and parasites.


The Grief Hole by Kaaron Warren
Cover & internal artwork by Keely Van Order
Published by IFWG Publishing Australia
GET IT.   

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