The Gracekeepers, at its core, follows two tales whose paths cross from time to time; Callanish, a Gracekeeper who lays the dead to their final resting place, and North, a performer on the floating, travelling circus, who entertains with her bear. The former has exiled herself to pay for a past family mistake, the latter earns a living in exchange for her entertainment, being born into the show.
Water is no longer some obstacle that separates land, but a way of life, one that not only births, but sustains and ultimately buries many as their final resting place. Gods are found in many different forms, dependent on their circumstance, be they landlockers or damplings.
The circus itself is nice – I thought it with Station Eleven and I think it again here, the idea of a world losing its way and changing so drastically but still holding on to culture is so nice, especially when written in such a lovely way.
There’s two threads, and they unravel so gently that it builds and builds. Even if you hate boats (like I do), you’ll end up kind of falling in love with the sea, even the idea of its magic to some. The idea of landlegs being a problem is fun, and it’s turned everything on its head.
Like The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, it plays with elements of folklore and fairytale, and it’s just so incredibly different and gorgeous that I really loved it. The Gracekeepers handles isolation, literal or when surrounded by others, family and, simply, life – surrounded by the sea and the circus. Had a completely awful day today, but it turns out plonking myself on the couch and delving into this has been a proper wee delight. Gorgeous book.
May 2015 | Harvill Secker