This was the first book I read that I got from Scardiff. It’s not horror (although I got it at a horror expo). It’s more a mix of realism and fantasy, the two blending together to make us, as readers, question what’s really going on.
The Limits of Enchantment tells the story of Fern, a young woman on the verge of discovering her place in the world. Fern was raised by Mammy, an old wise woman who has helped the people of the village more times than anyone could count. Fern’s world is turned upside down when one of Mammy’s patients, prescribed a potion to induce abortion, dies. The village turns against the old woman, and after a bad fall she is put in hospital, leaving Fern to fend for herself when the owner of the land threatens to kick her out of the only home she has ever known.
Joyce manages to convey what Fern is going through quite brilliantly. In some ways, she is very naïve, and there’s the impression that Mammy has, perhaps, shielded her away from the worst of the world. It really is a story of discovery, as Fern comes to terms with the world around her, the changing landscape of the 1960s and herself. She is left confused, for most parts, by the actions of others, but slowly comes to realise what they have done and why. Fern has a fascinating voice, and as a reader, I was totally drawn into what was going on with her and the way her mind works.
Joyce uses the idea of an unreliable narrator to its full extent, leaving us to piece together parts of the novel ourselves, sometimes coming to the right conclusion before Fern and sometimes, like her, heading down the totally wrong path altogether. We only get glimpses of what’s really going on, and even when things begin to become a little more clear, it’s never really explicit.
The Limits of Enchantment is a wonderfully written, beautiful novel that shows a young woman struggling in a changing world, dealing with things beyond her years and coming out of it just a little bit stronger. Pick it up and you will not be disappointed.