So i just finished reading the ‘Night Brother’ by Rosie Garland and oh man, I loved it! It was such a sublime mix of poetic and descriptive language and all set in my beloved home town of Manchester❤ As a Manc I was super invested as soon as I read the ‘set in Manchester’ sentence of the blurb😅
It has a Jekyll and Hyde theme that runs throughout, and the book really plays with this in a number of ways – characters, journey’s, day and night. Through the protagonists, Edie and Gnome, the novel goes on winding and difficult journey’s of self discovery and is set in the early 1900’s which helps give, and keep, the air of mystery surrounding the plot. It also allows you to loose youself in a period set piece of fiction and go back to a time free from the constraints of modernity. Touching upon today’s prevalent issues such as women’s rights, what it means to be a man and gender fluidity, they’re all mixed together with a touch of intrigue, flair and vital importance.
The theme of duality that runs theough the entirety of the novel is such an interesting one because we all have different personas depending on who we’re with and the situation we’re in. A lot of people (myself included) probably feel like they are living seperate lives sometimes. The novel deals with sexuality and gender fluidity in a way that shows you that you are more and can be more than what you are born into. Edie and Gnome differ in every way, they are complete opposites. But, they need each other. They’re constantly battling against each other for freedom and you do, like with Jekyll and Hyde, get the sense that this could easily be interpreted as someone battling with their inner demons. They desperately yearn for freedom from each other, fighting agasint their restraints and bonds, but if one of them does win in the end, can they really be whole? To survive one cannot be without the other no matter how hard they try – they are indeed 2 halves of a whole.
Some people might say the ending is anti-climactic, and while I can see where they might be coming from, I have to disagree. The ending, for me, wrapped up the story of the 2 siblings and their arduous journey and provided a sense of comfort. Not just for them, but for us the reader. You become invested in their stories and you really (or I did anyway) want to see them find stability and safety in a world where they would be chewed up and spit out.
I adored reading this and I don’t want to give too much away, but I highly recommend😊