Saturday, February 11, 2017

27th kingdom

The 27th Kingdom is an odd little book by English author Alice Thomas Ellis (1932-2005). I haven't read her stuff before, but its got a wonderfully English humor about it that reminds me of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," various English situation comedies, like "Are You Being Served," with a touch of Tom Robbins. That last one is just for the strange bits.

Aunt Irene (pronounced in the East European/Slavic way) is the owner of a small, historically interesting home on the outskirts of London, in the 1950s. Aunt Irene lives with her young, self-absorbed nephew, Kiril, and whatever wayward needling happens to come along. Aunt Irene simply can't say no, and so her house is often occupied by various adult, foundlings. The newest is young, lovely Valentine, sent to live with Aunt Irene by Irene's sister, the abbess of a convent in which Valentine is a postulate. The abbess believes that Valentine needs a time away from the abbey, but hasn't shared the reasons why, with her sister.

The Kingdom is absolutely driven by the dialog. There is very little narration or description. One knows very little about most things in this story if it doesn't come up in conversation. And the conversation is constant, and many times internal to Aunt Irene herself. And Aunt Irene is an odd duck, and the company she keeps is just as odd.

This book is short, fast paced, and pretty much begins partway through the story, and then seems to end partway through as well. When I finished, I felt like I had overhear the larger part of an interesting, but ultimately bizarre conversation, while riding next to some strangers on the T. Ellis writes as though she's a fly on the wall, in the house of whomever she happened to buzz in upon. It began odd, and ended even stranger.

All in all, it was fun to read.

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