‘Tales tell a hidden truth as well as the things they seem to say.’
The Second Bridegroom
With the publication of Rodney Hall’s latest novel, The Grisly Wife, the author has brought to completion a trilogy that first began appearing in 1988. Since this last published novel is actually the middle work of the trilogy and what were formerly two separate novels are now bridged by this newcomer, we are finally given the opportunity to assess if and how the parts relate to the whole.
While each of these volumes can still be read as a separate work of power and effect, in their combined sequence the achievement is extraordinary. We are now made aware that for all the narrative diversity offered there are unsettling parallels and relationships between the stories; teasing them out is an enriching and engrossing task. At first reading each of the monologues (yes, monologues!) may reveal only a slight interrelatedness. Hall’s intense and poetic text is as dense as the primeval forest that is his setting. His stories are encircled and tangled with circumlocutions and asides, with sudden leaps of time and setting, with tantalising avenues of escape and revelation glimpsed through the thicket and rushed past us as we proceed further to the very heart of the matter.