30th July, 2022
Review: Hex by Jenni Fagan (Polygon)
This was a weird little book but a very good and thought provoking one at that.
IT'S THE 4TH OF DECEMBER 1591.
On this, the last night of her life, in a prison cell several floors below Edinburgh's High Street, convicted witch Geillis Duncan receives a mysterious visitor - Iris, who says she comes from a future where women are still persecuted for who they are and what they believe.
As the hours pass and dawn approaches, Geillis recounts the circumstances of her arrest, brutal torture, confession and trial, while Iris offers support, solace - and the tantalising prospect of escape.
Hex takes places during a time when superstition and fear were still consuming society and when one tiny misstep would lead you to the gallows or the pyre. It literally made me cry for all of these women who were considered to be strange or who had become "uncomfortable" to men and were therefore easily discarded, simply by accusing them of witchcraft. At the same time it made me realise how women today are still being treated pretty much the same in many ways. Iris and Geillis offer female perspectives from different time periods but their experiences have shocking similarities.
Fagan has a very postmodern take on the subject matter and it took me a while to get into the double narrative that spans voices over 500 years in time. While some of the imagery was quite distressing, I very much liked how this novella draws attention to the female predicament without becoming preachy. It made me see a few things in a different light and taught me a bit more about a very dark time in Scottish history.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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