Folk by Zoe Gilbert

1/15/2018

Folk
Author: Zoe Gilbert
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Publication Date: 8th February 2018
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Wordery
Every year they gather, while the girls shoot their arrows and the boys hunt them out. The air is riddled with spiteful shadows - the wounds and fears and furies of a village year.

On a remote and unforgiving island lies a village unlike any other: Neverness. A girl is snatched by a water bull and dragged to its lair, a babe is born with a wing for an arm and children ask their fortunes of an oracle ox. While the villagers live out their own tales, enchantment always lurks, blighting and blessing in equal measure.

Folk is a dark and sinuous debut circling the lives of one generation. In this world far from our time and place, the stories of the islanders interweave and overlap, their own folklore twisting fates and changing lives.

A captivating, magical and haunting debut novel of breathtaking imagination, from the winner of the 2014 Costa Short Story Award.


A brilliant read to start 2018. Folk is a collection of short stories (I've seen a few reviews describe Folk as a novel, perhaps it's being marketed as such?) centered on the inhabitants of a village called Neverness. Zoe Gilbert's stories are the perfect balance of weird and twisted but not so removed from reality that they feel unbelievable. I loved the structure of the book, it's not something I've seen done before in a short story collection. Each tale is inextricably linked to another. Each chapter is about a different character in Neverness, but they often reflect on events from previous stories and the villagers pop up in each others tales.

The thing I liked most about this book is the sense of place Zoe Gilbert creates over the course of her short stories. Neverness sounds like a magical place, shrouded in mystery, where folklore is part of their reality. I can picture the rugged landscape, the scent of fish hanging in the air, the roar of the waterfalls and the calling of the kites. It's a dark place with dark secrets and I loved it. Zoe's writing is rich and atmospheric, but not over the top. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading whatever she writes next.

'Wherever Sil has been, though, there is a trace of waterweed in the air, of salt sea-fog and the insides of shells.'


As with any short story collection there are a few that I now can't recollect very well, but my favourites were Prick Song, Long Have I Lain Beside the Water and Verlyn's Blessings - the tale of a man with a wing for an arm.

I believe 'Fishskin, Hairskin' was the story Zoe won the Costa Short Story Award for. You can have a read of this on the Costa Short Story Award website. Great if you want to sample her writing before purchasing.


Verdict:
Story - 4/5
Writing - 4/5
Character - 3/5
Memorability - 3/5
Enjoyment - 5/5
Overall rating - 4/5

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