Title: Madame Zero
Writer: Sarah Hall
Publishing House: Faber & Faber
Date of Publication: July 4th 2017
Rating: 4 stars
‘’The morning is clear, a few high clouds banking on the horizon. Dawn has come and gone, but it still feels fresh and damp and clean. You cycle through the hospital grounds, past the crematorium and across a small park, then along the river. The field is empty. The grass glistens under the wheels of your bike. When you look up there is a long dark vee of birds in the sky, migrating south.’’
A woman is transformed into a fox, leaving her husband struggling to understand and survive. A child is rescued from a strange commune to tragic repercussions. In a dystopian society, the right of women to choose has been taken away and a doctor is forced to help them in a world in a state where abortion and medication are illegal. It sounds frighteningly similar to the society that Trump and his fanatic followers dream of creating…A new mother meets a former lover in the lido and contemplates on all the ‘’ might-have-been’’. A young girl visits the mortuary, searching for answers caused by a terrible incident. A haunting letter from a man who exposes the inability of the government to stop a deadly virus and loses everything in the process. A married woman finds her personality altered, resembling an uncontrollable animal.
In London, Whitby, Brighton, Hall creates darkness. Pure and unholy darkness. In exemplary prose, she presents an intricate, dubious depiction of womanhood, mostly seen through the eyes of men who seem torn between mythologizing, worshipping and destroying the female identity. Making use of the concepts of love and death, the driving forces of the universe, the primal instincts that confuse us and define us. These are intense, dark, disturbing to the point of making you feel uncomfortable stories. Transformation, motherhood, fulfillment are either means to a bitter end or nowhere to be found.
This is an excellent, demanding collection with the exception of the last story, ‘’Evie’’, which I simply couldn’t stomach. It went against my literary preferences and above all, against my personal code of morality and decency. Hence, the 4-star rating for an overall brilliant reading experience.
‘’The one who loves less is always loved more.’’