Are you still with me or has the title put you off? It all sounds very lurid and might suggest a slasher-type horror story but British author Jack Wolf’s novel is a solid literary debut. It’s the mid 18th Century and Tristan Hart tries to stifle his sadistic desires by channelling them into experimentations in medical science. Along the way he lodges with Henry Fielding, author of “Tom Jones”, in a London on the threshold of developing into a modern, scientific city. Hart is unable to escape his more primitive beliefs from his rural upbringing and tales of legendary characters (the goblins mentioned in the title), magic and changelings dominate his thoughts. Is this madness or is there something behind all this?
There’s a good feel for the period and some involving and enigmatic characters and behind it all there is an effective examination of Britain at a time when the rational and irrational were at loggerheads, when traditional beliefs were being questioned to fit in with enlightenment. There are times when the plot does not move quite as fast as it could and the unanswered questions became a little frustrating for this reader. It’s not quite the triumph I was hoping for but Wolf’s ability to combine the historical novel with his obvious love for fairy tale is original and I will certainly be looking out for future novels.
The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones was published in 2013 by Chatto & Windus