I’ve got eight new books to review, so I really should be reading. But in deference to my earlier post about first words, and I suppose as a stalling tactic, this morning I found myself sitting on the sofa and staring at my wall of books.
I pulled from a shelf a slim, red and tan paperback by Michele Roberts, a UK author and poet who is perhaps best known for her novels “Daughters of the House” which was shortlisted for the 1992 Booker Prize, and “Impossible Saints.” In 2001, when she was one of my creative writing instructors in the masters program at UEA and also kindly renting me her flat in London, she told me that she knows that people have a polar reaction to her writing: they either hate it or love it. I’ve read a handful of her books, and fall in the category of those who love the ebullience of her writing, her often raw diction and precise imagery.
But, I haven’t yet read Michele Roberts’s fifth novel, “In the Red Kitchen” (Virago, 1990), save this beginning:
“Flora Milk is a monster in silk shirts. She looks like a woman, but she’s a devil underneath, the part you can’t see. That’s the truth, Mr Redburn, and you should know it. Someone’s got to write and tell you, and it might as well be me. For a long time I’ve been closer to her than anybody, we were good friends once. But I’ve found out that she is corrupt. Evil. She sucks the life out of people, she pretends to love them, but she simply uses them, takes all they’ve got, then throws them away and moves on to her next victim. She doesn’t look vicious, of course. Her trick is to charm you. Everyone falls for it at first. You did, sir, just a little, didn’t you? Just like all the others.
She bewitches people. Then sooner or later they feel her teeth rip their throats, those red lips of hers stealing their lifeblood away. Don’t think I’m exaggerating, because I’m not.”