A young woman meets a stranger on a train and introduces herself as Rose. Not because that is her name, but because it is a name that she likes. She also might have noticed the flowers blooming in a field beyond the carriage window. “Where are you going?” the man asks, and she replies that she is “going to write a book.” He asks if that is a destination; she tells him it is. Then he invites her to stay with him at the mysterious Hiraeth House, and so begins a strange romance that edges towards psycho-sexual drama on the road to self-discovery.
Skirting surrealist and symbolist fiction, Angelica Krystel’s debut novella, , THE FLOWERS OF HIRAETH HOUSE, is an enjoyable (if uneven) enigma concerning love, life, longing, and loss. Loaded with references to flowers, and in places ripe with emotional tension, it relates one woman’s journey to discover herself in the midst of an unpredictable and sometimes sinister environment. As flowers bloom, blood is spilled. A touch overwritten and overwrought, the book is also is prone to lyricism. Sometimes it’s quite stilted, but on occasion the style is somewhat effective in passages such as this: “The sentence lay in the air. It lay there jumbled at first. Words floating in the air, the black letters were still and then they began to float upwards. Letters floating to and fro, like waves hitting the shore until they vanished quite suddenly.” Even in moments like these, though, the prose can lack finesse. The second “in the air” seems unnecessary, and the repetition of “float”/”floating” hampers the true grace of the line.
It is an ambitious work. Fragmentary, kaleidoscopic. The writing is so very close to weaving an uncanny spell, but in the end it seems just one close line edit away from realizing its true potential. Towards the end, Rose reflects on Hiraeth House as “a place where flowers roamed the fields of time, but now I would sow my insides back together piece by piece”—and it is unclear whether the “sow” is a deliberate malapropism used for poetic effect or a simple misspelling of “sew.” Despite the cushion of the unreliable first-person narrator, a few missteps and slightly clumsy lines have thrown doubt into the reader’s mind as to whether the writer is fully in control of her material.
Angelica Krystel’s THE FLOWERS OF HIRAETH HOUSE is an intriguing novella that blends elements of surrealism and the uncanny with traditional romantic fiction to create a memorable debut.
~Kent Lane for IndieReader