Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

June 18, 2012

Review – Mistification by Kaaron Warren

Filed under: books of 2012,books read,women writers challenge 2012 — lexifab @ 11:29 pm

This will be my fifth full review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012, and in fact my third review of a Kaaron Warren novel. Mistification (published by Angry Robot) is her third published novel, following on from Slights and Walking the Tree, both of which I enjoyed. So with that in mind – and having subsequently met Kaaron and found her to be charming, insightful and encouraging to new writers [1] – you can reasonably assume I will be predisposed to like this one as well.

“You love your tricks, Marvo. You must be careful to let people believe they ARE tricks, at all times. Let them think there is an answer, an explanation. If they think your magic is true, they will hate you. This has happened to me more than once.”

Marvo is a true magician, raised by his grandmother within the walls and attic of an old house, where they have fled from a murderous if vague civil unrest. There he teaches himself magic tricks, learns about the world watching a mute television and begins his lifelong addiction to listening to the stories that people tell about themselves. Once he is old enough to go out into the world, he devotes himself to understanding the world almost exclusively through these stories – some heartbreaking and personal, some awful and transgressive, some resonant with myth. Denied the grounding of a typical family upbringing, he is particularly obsessed with birth stories, the stranger the better. He finds love, of a sort, and becomes a renowned stage magician. He begins to understand that the mist, his magical ability to alter how people see the world, conveys a great and ultimately terrible responsibility.

Mistification is a fascinating piece of storytelling about stories, from the small curiosities that people build up into important myths with themselves at the centre, to the huge lies that they spin around themselves to obscure truths they cannot bear. It’s a story obsessed with magical traditions, superstitions and mythology, as is Marvo himself.

The pace of the novel perhaps suffers from Marvo’s apparent aimlessness – much of the book is taken up with his meandering trade in stories with just about everyone he ever meets – but I felt his relentless inquisitiveness worked in the book’s favour. Marvo’s quest to understand the world through stories is his life’s work, and Warren’s primary concern is to show what Marvo has learned. She almost never lets us glimpse the world except from his odd and myopic perspective. The plot has to force its way in between the gaps in the mist and the impact of the ending is all the more stunning for it.

Mistification is a beautiful piece told in a fairytale lilt but not always accessibly so. Marvo is not overly concerned with being liked and is often more selfish and spiteful than he lets himself believe. Given the tightness of the viewpoint, it was sometimes hard to sympathise with him. But Marvo’s lesson, that the world is best understood by listening to stories, is a resonant one.

[1] I’m new to the community of writers, at any rate.

1 Comment »

  1. […] reading stack of the preceding few months. I finished reading just two books: Kaaron Warren’s Mistification and Joanne Anderton’s Debris. Since I already reviewed Mistification, I’ll just go ahead and […]

    Pingback by Review – Debris by Jo Anderton (Books of 2012 – June) « Lexifabricographer — July 2, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

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