“Grudova is Angela Carter’s natural inheritor. Her style is effortlessly spare and wonderfully seductive. Read her! Love her! She is sincerely strange.” —Nicola Barker, author, Darkmans
Following Grudova’s critically acclaimed collection The Doll’s Alphabet , this surreal, discomforting debut novel charts the fates of a ragtag group of cinema workers who are spat out by corporate takeover.
When Holly applies for a job at the Paradise – one of the city’s oldest cinemas, squashed into the ground floor of a block of flats – she thinks it will be like any other shift work. She cleans toilets, sweeps popcorn, avoids the belligerent old owner, Iris, and is ignored by her aloof but tight-knit colleagues who seem as much a part of the building as its fraying carpets and endless dirt. Dreadful, lonely weeks pass while she longs for their approval, a silent voyeur.
So when she finally gains the trust of this cryptic band of oddballs, Holly transforms from silent drudge to rebellious insider and gradually she too becomes part of the Paradise – unearthing its secrets, learning its history and haunting its corridors after hours with the other ushers. It is no surprise when violence strikes, tempers change and the group, eyes still affixed to the screen, starts to rapidly go awry…
I listened to this on audible. My audiobook short review:
Dark humour cinematic tale
It’s unlike anything I’ve listened to before. Weird, disturbing, claustrophobic, wildly imaginative, sordid, cinematic.
It’s unlike anything I have heard, or read before. It’s dark humour set in a dingy cinema, narrated by a female employee who tells the tale of the ailing Paradise. The misfit employees who work there live and breathe films. Their lives play out within the cinema’s walls and even when they do meet outside in a similar manner they watch films too. There is no escaping! The tale has a claustrophobic aspect to it as there is no release from the cinematic aspect of their lives. There are sexual encounters, grotesque happenings and even deaths in the cinema. Also there are some stunningly imaginative passages. All the characters who inhabit the cinema, (both the misfit employees and the cinema goers,) are at times sordid, disgusting and grotesque. So, this won’t be for everyone!
Triggers/other aspects: sex, filth, unwanted pregnancy.
A difficult one to rate. I don’t think I will forget it in a hurry. Did I like it? In truth, I wouldn’t have chosen to read this normally but it was book club pick at Edinburgh Stockbridge book club so I gave it a go. On the whole, I did. I appreciated it for being different, for its wild imagination, and strange weirdness.
My rating 4 stars.
Camilla Grudova lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. She holds a degree in art history and German from McGill University, Montreal. Her fiction has appeared in the White Review and Granta.
Grudova originally posted stories on her Tumblr blog before being spotted by an editor from The White Review.
Her story, “Waxy” (Granta 136), was nominated for a British Fantasy Award for short fiction and won the Shirley Jackson Award for best novelette.