The Newtown Review of Books: The Bitterwood Bible

Lisa's photo

Lisa’s photo

Lou Murphy has reviewed The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings for The Newtown Review of Books and it is quite, quite humbling.

“The Bitterwood Bible is a masterful offering of haunting stories that traverse the bounds of myth and legend.

In this prequel to Sourdough & Other Stories (2010) Slatter proves herself to be a master storyteller, offering a compendium of bittersweet tales to be devoured with relish. Weaving reappearing characters and their journeys through a landscape as bleak and unforgiving as it is psychically familiar, the 13 stories chart juicy plotlines of misguided love, sacrifice, and revenge.

The power of the written word itself is a recurring theme of The Bitterwood Bible. Thus, it seems fitting that the physical embodiment of this limited printing – complete with its ethereal illustrations by Kathleen Jennings – is so delightful. This beautiful edition is worthy of becoming an heirloom and deserves to be handled with the white-cotton-gloved care of the bibliophile. Books feature prominently in the stories; their power to hold magical secrets passed through the ages brings bloodshed and horror to those foolish or careless enough to loosen their guard on the supernatural tomes in their care. In ‘St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls’, a story set in an establishment dedicated to the education of select young women in mastering the art of murder, one of the students – Mercia – pursues a secret mission: to transcribe the contents of The Compendium of Contaminants, rumoured to be the first and greatest of poisoners’ bibles.

… And this is why I am here; this is my initiation task to earn my place among St Florian’s secret sisters, the Murchianii, the collectors, the recorders, the travelling scribes who gather all manner of esoteric and eldritch knowledge so it might not pass out of the world. Folktales and legends, magic and spells, bestiaries of creatures once here and now long-gone, histories and snippets of lives that have intersected with our efforts, our recordings … and books like these, the dark books, the dangerous books, the books that some would burn but which we save because knowledge, all knowledge, is too important to be lost.

Each word is selected with purposeful intent to best deliver the shocking wisdom that lies at the heart of each story.”

For the rest, go here.

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