I first read The Keepsake by Kirsty Gunn (1960, New Zealand) in August of 2009. I did not attempt to post on it then as I knew I could not begin to convey the dark terrible beauty of this book. After my second reading I feel little more confidence but I will now attempt to say a bit about this book as I want to encourage others to read it. (I had a fairly long post written on this book but somehow either my computer or my internet locked up and I lost it all so this post will be very short.)
Here is the Goodreads description:
Through a shifting and interwoven narrative, Kirsty Gunn explores the dark world of a young girl who has grown up with a mother dependent on storytelling and the oblivion of addiction to cope with the memory of her lost love, the girl's father. Raised on these deceptive tales of happiness, the younger woman is drawn into and begins to relive the real story of pain, abandonment, and the tyranny of desire. Her shocking affair with an older man seems to repeat the pattern set by her mother. The tangled yarn of her mother's past begins to be unraveled by the younger woman - until finally she can come to tell a story that is her.
The prose in The Keepsake is almost painfully beautiful. It could be seen thematically as about a lot of things. Among them memory, sexual obbession, drug addiction, the need for stories to have patterns in our lifes, and possibly incest.
I think when you reach the scene where the nature of the keepsake is revealed you will shudder at the terrible beauty and power of what is revealed to us.
Parts of The Keepsake somehow brought to mind ancient death cults or Meso-American religion.
I am not doing this wonderful book justice but I will reread it in 2012, God willing, and will attempt to do a better job then. It has some wonderful quotes directly related to the reading life.
I completely endorse this wonderful, beautiful work of art.