If you wish to experience the wonders of the Universe, then learn to travel through yourself...' says Patrick in the Garden of Idols.This is the story of a young girl's journey of self-discovery as she battles with illness. A teenager with everything before her, and surrounded by loving family and friends, Muriel must explore the inner depths of her being to learn how to deal with the traumas facing her. In meeting and facing up to her demons she comes to a self-awareness denied to most of us through our own self-imposed limitations. In the process she discovers hidden talents that she might never otherwise have found.This light-hearted and entertaining allegory is a voyage of self-discovery that will have the reader on the edge of their seat, and certainly emotionally involved. As the author himself says, 'It is a process of development which will leave you wiser than it found you.'
This book by Martin Slevin was really good, and totally unlike anything I’ve ever read before! I loved how complete and thoroughly imagined the story here was. This story is unusual in the sense that it doesn’t just have a clear, straightforward narrative, but instead is a blend of real life and ‘fantasy’ if you will, with many people/characters and events being used as an allegory for Muriel’s battle against the illness. It is extremely intelligent, deep and introspective, yet very easy to get swept up in and lose yourself in. Fortunately though it’s not convoluted or confusing, even though it could have been! Loved the characters (real and imagined), and thought the whole take on her spiritual and mystical mind ‘journey’ was really cool. This book makes you think outside the box and I like that it has a sort of “existential” feel to it as well. Loved the ending, even if it might not be what we hoped for or expect. It was real and organic and powerful. It wraps up well.
Recommend for readers of literary fiction (5 stars) Kaylee Stevens—Goodreads; Indie Book Reviewers
This is a relentlessly intriguing and engrossing tale of a schoolgirl about to face the biggest challenge in her young life.
Muriel Mason is a 15-year-old child who suffers from blackouts and headaches and is swiftly diagnosed with a brain tumor. What follows then is her poignant experience of radiotherapy, speech therapy for Brocas’ Fluent Aphasia, a parietal craniotomy through the top of her skull, and the rigors of chemotherapy, all with an uncertain outcome...
As cancer progresses, the young lady against all odds becomes an inventor and entrepreneur, and ala James Dyson, she creates the “Universal Warmer”, to the particular delight of her father.
Intertwined with this story of a life-threatening medical condition is what happens whenever Muriel falls asleep. She is immediately transported into a fantastical land called the Crucible of Creation, where Muriel embarks upon a quest which is, in equal measure, both determined, and seemingly directionless...
She encounters a weird and wonderful cast of characters, both human and animal, in some wildly imaginative locations. There’s Bron in the Camp of the Hippos, Patrick and the gardener in the Garden of Idols, Professor Brocas, Wernick the Magician, and the Traffic Warden at the Great Egg. Each of these characters regales Muriel with advice and guidance that is, at times, arcane and challenging, but also profound and enlightening.
Lurking in the Twisted Mountains is a cave dwelling, nameless monster, that grows ever larger and more deadly. Muriel can sense this entity, but she has her own personal champion, the Silver Knight, to help her try to prevail against the advances of the nefarious beast.
The book frequently shifts back and forth between Muriel’s real life experiences, and the alternate reality when she slumbers. The transition from one to the other is always seamless, and never confuses or distracts the reader.
I found this story open to various different interpretations. The most obvious one was that the fantasy land and its inhabitants were different regions of Muriel’s brain, but I was not completely certain if the Crucible of Creation was a subconscious invention - a REM state sequence of dreams or an alter ego or a state of being existent somewhere in between wakefulness and unconsciousness.
As I read this tale I felt distant echoes of The Lord of the Rings, Gulliver’s Travels, Alice in Wonderland, and even Samuel Butler’s Erewhon. The prose is deliciously detailed and descriptive, and complex without being irksome, but although some of the passages swerve perilously close to being didactic, they don’t overstep the mark into being lecturing or patronizing.
I read this book over a couple of evenings – it’s 271 pages long, and I couldn’t rest until I knew what was going to happen to Muriel.
I recently discovered that one of my close family relations has a potentially terminal form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and so this book had even more meaning for me, albeit in a positive rather than disturbing way.
I hadn’t read a book with cancer as its theme since John Diamond’s rather wonderful “C”, but I found Muriel’s Monster to be equally gripping, and every bit as moving, although in a much more allegorical and rather less biographical style. Highly recommended.
Write a Review