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THROUGH THE GLASS MOUNTAIN:

Bridget Sprouls reviews Martina Evans's newest novella

 

 

 

 

 

 

bridget sproulsBorn in New Jersey, Bridget Sprouls now lives and studies writing in Cork. Her poems and stories have appeared in Steps Magazine, Scrivener Creative Review, Casino Magazine, The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow Anthology, and The McGill Daily. This year her work was broadcast on CKUT Radio Montreal and shortlisted for the Atlantic Writing Competition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

through the glass mountain

Through the Glass Mountain

Martina Evans

(Bloom Books, 2013)

ISBN: 978-1484000571

£4.99 paperback

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Who never sought shelter in the glamour of a surface identity? Have we not all been teenagers and dizzied by sudden mountains of ignorance? Maeve, the narrator of Martina Evans’s novella Through the Glass Mountain, is frighteningly typical of a would-be punk rocker in 1980’s Cork, hurling the odd brick, pogo dancing at the Arc, dressing in vintage shantung and army surplus. Between her hated science courses at uni and weekend visits home to be browbeaten by her father (“Anybody who comes along, chopping and changing has no character, no backbone”), Maeve does her utmost to blend in with a group of fellow malcontents, guzzling cider and popping over the counter amphetamines because nearly all conversations panic her with a sense of her own inadequacy. Her head swims with other people’s words, showing the porosity of her self-image in a way that must be applauded for its brutal candor as she finds herself in worse and worse situations, clinging to the surface of a subculture and a rashly chosen identity until these fail her too.

But even as Maeve’s thoughts race and leap, the associative element between them is invariably there to split one’s nerves in alarm. Evans keeps each chapter to a single paragraph, permitting a few overdue breaths before the next headlong tumble into narrative, and the words do tumble, as befits their theme (“...being eighteen was like being one of the princes slipping and sliding down at the foot of the mountain and trying to see through the thick glass”). With a deceptively sparse style, relying on tautness of phrasing and the exactness of words, Evans conveys a sense of cataclysmic urgency. Her heroine can’t seem to escape this hurtling sequence of flashbacks, episode after episode fiercely compressed into a death march rhythm, until she has confessed to every attendant fear, doubt, and shame. As a result, the novella comes across as a kind of gasping prose poem, its subjectivity enhanced through the immediacy of its expression. 

Images are not so much described in the story as they are thrown twitching into the reader’s lap in rapid succession, and the breakneck narrative pacing, each chapter like a door banging open with a blast of freezing air, demands one’s full attention until it has slammed shut. Even then, one remains distracted, emotionally concussed and trembling with awareness of affinities ordinarily barred from consciousness. Evans has customized this novella’s form to underpin its story, an acutely distressful Bildungsroman of astonishing lyricism and originality. The Doc Martens fit all too well.

 

 

 

 

©2013 Bridget Sprouls

 

 

Author Links

 

'Pockets in the Sand': a story in Casino Magazine

'The Joker Miracle': a story in Scivener Creative Review

 

 

 

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