Title: Little Nothing
Writer: Marisa Silver
Publishing House: Oneworld Publications
Date of Publication: March 2nd 2017 (first published September 13th 2016)
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Love!’’, the woman exclaims. ‘’All anyone wants to know about is love! My God! Is there nothing more important on earth than that? Why don’t you ask the necessary questions: Will I have food in my belly? Will I have all my teeth? Will I be able to urinate without pain? But no, it’s always love! It’s pathetic.’’
In a country that resembles Poland during the beginning of the last century, an elderly woman gives birth to a girl. What should have been a blessing turns into an ordeal. Isolated peasants, the parents notice that the child is unusual. Whispers about changelings haunt the mother’s mind before she comes to accept that her Pavla is unique. More unique than she could ever imagine. Soon a story of transformation, desperate love and persecution begins, brilliantly written by Marisa Silver.
”Why is she staring at them? What horror does she see?”
This novel is full of horrors. Inspired by the wealth of Slavic myths related to wolves, Silver presents the complex theme of identity and transformation through the adventures of Pavla and Danilo. Using a wonderful combination of Folklore, seasoned with a sense of humour that varies from bittersweet to crude, and literary language that is raw and poetic, she chronicles the odyssey of being the Other. From the circus of extraordinary beings to the behaviour of the community of wolves, the terrifying asylums, the unspeakable horrors of war and the holiest obligation of protecting a child.
Each chapter, each page hides a surprise and there is no way the reader will be able to predict the story. Through misery, sadness, and isolation, a small glimpse of hope is born and change dictates our choices. Sometimes, though, Fate decides for us and all we can do is to adapt to new situations that may seem incomprehensible. The only problem I faced is the crude sexual remarks that were often and unnecessary, in my opinion. The story is so beautiful and constant emphasis on the brutal aspect of sex was tiresome.
The characters of Pavla and Danilo are excellent, full of surprises, their journey from innocence to the ugly face of life and whatever hope they still have left is beautifully communicated. Ivan is yet another memorable character, very realistic and his story was possibly the most moving sequence in the novel.
Little Nothing is anything but ”little”. It is one more literary gem…
”All she can do is stare out into the night sky. Once, she would have said that night was simply black. But now she knew differently about colour and pain and delusion. Russet red, indigo blue, brown, other. She chants this litany to herself over and over, building up a wall of words that protects her from the sound of her mother’s voice, the feel of the chill on the tips of her ears and nose, the smell of chimney smoke carried on the wind. She needs to block out any intrusion that threatens to remind her of her being.”