Thursday, 31 December 2015
The Miracle Boy (1927) by Louis Golding
I must confess to never having heard of Louis Golding before I chanced to find his 1927 novel, "The Miracle Boy", offered for sale through L.W.Currey. I still don't know if any of his other novels have the same tone, though I have read good things about "Honey for the Ghost". One does hope he didn't leave that dry wit and sardonic tongue confined solely to the pages of "The Miracle Boy".
Now, you could take this novel and C. F. Ramuz's "The Reign of the Evil One" and find that, though they have a similar subject matter, they both do it in different ways. Where Ramuz is more tragically farcical, Golding is condescending, satirical, sardonic. There are fewer instances of what you could call comedic in Golding's novel, but there is just as much awe, and though it isn't a tour de force like Ramuz, it builds differently, trying to give the impression of the place and the people, though the author clearly never wants you to grow to like any of them. The peasentry of Ramuz is pittiable in it's suffering, but the one of Golding is detestable, filthy, more human and less in a way.
Golding does well with the novel, the idea of a peasent lad, with a supranaturally attracted raven sitting on his shoulder, whose hunger in war-torn Munich brings him to perform miracles and then returns to his oafish people, exciting their primitive passions in one way or another is one that demands attention.
The sole negative of the novel is it's pacing. Now normally Golding will linger on, to try and submerge you in the atmosphere, which is fine because he is able to do so quite well, but he seems very impatient in revealing certain key plot points early, so much so it takes dozens of pages until the event thus teased actually transpires. Perhaps one could also say that the way in which the Miracle Boy meets his ends is set up rather abruptly, though Golding will still spoil it halfway through the book. You could even say characters might be negative stereotypes, but then there are no positive stereotypes in the book either.
The narrator, only hearing the story in fragmentary sentences throughout many weeks, also seems to piece together the tale rather perfectly, and takes quite a while to stop babbling and get to the point early on. One wonders why a living narrator is necessary when you could simply relate the matter to an omniscient one, and you would notice no difference, the fictional author of the treatise on Hugo Harpf managing to acquire such choice information as no Earthly methods could provide him with.
Finally, the very beginning of the books speaks of ancient Etruscan mysteries performed in Florian's Valley, which are the very reason the narrator even arrives in the village. But this plot thread is abandoned almost instantly and is sadly never revisited.
But those are minor issues with an otherwise fantastic book.