Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh
Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh
UK Publication: June 2022
Reviewed by: Book Worm
This ARC was provided by Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
One word review – Woah
Synopsis from Goodreads: In a village in a medieval fiefdom buffeted by natural disasters, a motherless shepherd boy finds himself the unlikely pivot of a power struggle that puts all manner of faith to a savage test, in a spellbinding novel that represents Ottessa Moshfegh’s most exciting leap yet
Little Marek, the abused and delusional son of the village shepherd, never knew his mother; his father told him she died in childbirth. One of life’s few consolations for Marek is his enduring bond with the blind village midwife, Ina, who suckled him as a baby, as she did so many of the village’s children. Ina’s gifts extend beyond childcare: she possesses a unique ability to communicate with the natural world. Her gift often brings her the transmission of sacred knowledge on levels far beyond those available to other villagers, however religious they might be. For some people, Ina’s home in the woods outside of the village is a place to fear and to avoid, a godless place.
Among their number is Father Barnabas, the town priest and lackey for the depraved lord and governor, Villiam, whose hilltop manor contains a secret embarrassment of riches. The people’s desperate need to believe that there are powers that be who have their best interests at heart is put to a cruel test by Villiam and the priest, especially in this year of record drought and famine. But when fate brings Marek into violent proximity to the lord’s family, new and occult forces upset the old order. By year’s end, the veil between blindness and sight, life and death, the natural world and the spirit world, civility and savagery, will prove to be very thin indeed.
My Thoughts: Well that was an intense read. Having previously read Eileen I knew to expect unlikeable characters doing unlikeable things along with in depth descriptions of bodily functions and that is exactly what I got. Even the characters I felt should be naturally sympathetic turned out not to be as the story progressed.
Reading in some ways as historical fiction and in others as an allegory for our modern life (this was written in the dark days of Covid) Moshfegh explores the ideas of religion, morality, government, power, control, the have and have nots and most of all the unquestioning obedience of a suppressed population.
While this is set in the medieval period the parallels to today are too clear to be missed. Villiam the Lord who keeps his people living in fear with the help of warnings provided by corrupt priest Barnabas. Villiam and his cohorts who live in security while the villagers are attacked by bandits. Villiam and his cohorts who have more than enough to eat and drink while drought brings starvation and death to the villagers. Villiam who rewrites history by being the generous lord once the crisis has passed and of course the villagers complicit in their own downfall because they refuse to question anything the Lord tells them and because they refuse to unite and rise up.
This is a very clever book on so many levels and one I will be thinking about for a long time even while I must confess to not actually enjoying it as such.
Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a book that makes you really think.
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