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At The Edge Of The Woods, by Kathryn Bromwich
Deep in the Italian Alps, Laura lives alone in a cabin in the woods. She makes her living by translating medical texts and tutoring the local village children, venturing out only for food. Her time is largely spent cooking, reading and exploring the mountains around her. This changes when someone from her past knocks on her door.
At The Edge Of The Woods is Kathryn Bromwich’s debut novel, of the woman running from a violent past, trying to become whole again. Not a conventional story by any means, but gripping, weaving like roots into the soil of the mind. There is an undercurrent of unsettled tension, the use of language and pace creating the closeness of a storm waiting to burst.
For Laura, her journey from the supreme control of her past to utter freedom before her feels beautiful, wild and surreal. She explores what it means to be free and how far someone will go to no longer be afraid of the world. She finds solace in the rhythms of nature, in the expression of the natural world, both in its beauty and brutality. Laura’s final interaction with a person from her past feels like a tipping point towards both a new identity and an unravelling of the reality she’s carried within.
Bromwich brings a dash of menace and blurs the line between what is real and unreal, what is imagined and what is there. She immerses the reader in the woods, the idea of escaping and develops it in an unexpected direction.
At the Edge of the Woods is a trip; surreal and compelling, subverting the expectation of narrative, of character and of escaping to the woods. Browich’s writing is inspired, with the polished tension of Shirley Jackson, and the prose of Ali Smith or Tove Jansson. She is capable of dazzling beauty amongst a claustrophobic atmosphere.
At the Edge of the Woods is out now and is published by Two Dollar Radio.
Reviewed by Kelsey Ward, The Highland Bookshop, Fort William.