Guest review of The Offering by Grace McCleen by Linda.

I would like to welcome the lovely Linda to my book blog. Thank you for writing the review Linda.

Hello I’m Linda and I’m very grateful to Susan for allowing me to be a guest on her page. I’ve always loved books & reading since a small child! Some of my favourite writers are Paul Auster (experimental and very strange) Iris Murdoch (one of the greatest novelists of plot & dialogue ever) Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan.

I love going to the theatre too, everything from musicals and plays to more experimental fringe show

The Offering by Grace McCleen

McCleeovel tells the story of Madelaine, a woman in her early 30’s who is confined to a mental institution, and the attempts by a doctor to regress her via hypnosis to uncover the true events of a traumatic night some 20 years ago.

The narrative switches back and forth between daily life in the asylum (it is described as such by Madelaine) and her memories of her childhood while under hypnosis.  The reader only experiences the story from Madelaine’ s point of view, a very effective choice by the author as this builds the intense, interior world of her mind for the reader. 

Madelaine is an only child and lives with her parents. Her father is a lay preacher and a religious zealot, yet seemingly also an inadequate man who is unable to hold down a steady job. He is mean spirited, dictatorial and the family drift from place to place with no friends, leading a rootless existence as outcasts and misfits. Her mother is a haunting figure, a gentle, detached other-worldly woman, whom Madelaine adores. She is home schooled by her mother and has no contact with other children.

The reader inhabits Madelaine’s world completely, following the family as they move to an island (location unspecified) and attempt to fit into a rural, atheistic community. They buy a farm, and encounter a variety of endless set-backs and difficulties which begin to seem linked in a sinister way.

These descriptions of Madelaine’s childhood, recalled under hypnosis, contrast sharply with the monotonous painful existence of the current day reality in the asylum. The various inmates are vivid characters and their small triumphs and despairs within the institution were sometimes reminiscent to me of ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’.

The writer builds the suspense toward the culmination of events that lead to Madelaine being incarcerated in a very skilful way. There is a religious intensity to Madelaine’s adoration of nature, and her descriptions of her wild childlike freedom, where she roams about the countryside alone, use extraordinarily vivid language, almost reaching moments of hysteria.

The final events unfold in a shocking and heart-breaking way. This is an emotionally draining read, very compelling and intense, and in the final pages, unbearably sad. It made me question deeply how the nature of reality is such an individual experience. It made me wonder how monstrous people are made, in this case almost accidentally, and it left me with many haunting questions about the characters and reasons behind why they did what they did. Intense and powerful, this story will stay in my mind for a long time to come.

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