If anything, Fellside is a unique experience. It is equal parts literary fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery. The refusal to conform is both an upside and downside but on the whole, it is a good experience.
Jess Moulson awakens from a heroin induced haze in the first pages of the novel. We quickly come to learn that she has been accused of burning down her home and in the process, killing the young boy that lived above her. As result, she is to spend the rest of her life in a maximum security prison. Wracked with fear, grief and regret, Jess is ready to die. While she is quickly spiraling to that end in prison, she is visited by the boy she was convicted of killing. The result is an unlikely story of friendship, self-discovery mixed with elements of fantasy and mystery.
Just Keep Reading
The major issue with the book is that is simply takes too long to develop. For nearly half the book I was really unsure of what I was reading. The descriptions I read sold me on fantasy elements, but these elements were sparse at the outset. Much of the first half focused on Jess and life in a women’s prison. I thought I was in for some literary version of Orange is the New Black . For a period of time, I did consider putting the book down but several things kept me reading.
In the end, it was the excellent writing of M.R. Carey that kept me going. Although for much of the first half I found I was disinterested in the story, the beautiful and descriptive prose of the author kept me reading and left me feeling there was more on the horizon. Generally, excellent writing is not enough to keep me reading but in this case, the author gave me enough to keep turning the page.
When I did get to the point that the writing was not going be enough, the author began to introduce elements of fantasy that slowly built intrigue into the story. While the story is not overtly “fantasy” or “horror” there are enough elements to give the story some added flavor. In all, I found the mixture of genres to be enticing and entertaining.
Fellside is a unique experience. I have read other novels that try and mix genres but this one does it better than most. I am always excited to read novels that prove fantasy and literary fiction are not incompatible. Whether you stay for the writing, stay for the fantasy or stay for the story, I suggest you stick it through to the end.