Blood and Water and Other Tales

Blood and Water and Other Tales - Patrick McGrath For my full-length review and reviews on the individual stories, please visit Casual Debris.
My rating is 7/10... had a hard time translating to 3/5 or 4/5.

Amid its varied approach, the stories in Blood and Water offer tales narrated by both men and women, as well as by other more unusual narrators, such as a boot and a fly. Stories take place in England, India and the US, from Manhattan and Greenwich Village to the Louisiana bayou. We have tales about houses, family histories, vengeance, psychological breakdowns and the post apocalyptic, with the prominent undercurrent of sexual repression and perversion. Consistent throughout is McGrath's elegantly verbose and controlled prose. The writing throughout each of the thirteen stories is a pleasure to read.

While the stories in this collection do include some clear horror tales, they encompass aspects of the darker parts of our inner selves rather than of an exterior threat. Whatever horrors the characters encounter, they are inflicted not by outward malevolent forces, but as a result of human malevolence. Our dark subconscious, our repressed desires and our inability to recognize truths about ourselves and those around us, or to simply deal with them appropriately, are factors lying in abundance here. These stories are unconventional, and many don't have a clear, linear plot, but are presented more as character sketches, people confronted or dealing with unusual circumstances. Most of the stories borrow elements of classic literature, both of classic supernatural tales as well as elements of Victorian and Edwardian prose, Gothic and otherwise.

McGrath is very much a stylist. His prose is flawless, smooth and literate. His sentences are so well constructed that often I read them aloud in order to better appreciate them. The stories also embody elements beyond simple story-telling, as McGrath imbues many of his tales with serious thematic elements. Often he will open a story with a kind of discussion on a topic, such as colonialism in "The Dark Hand of the Raj" and the humourous considerations on priesthood in "Ambrose Syme." He is not being didactic or preachy in any respect, but rather playful.

There is not a bad story in this collection, but a few do suffer in that the plot aspect is lacking in a tale that should be more story than sketch.