Eye of a Rook
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
In The Waves, Virginia Woolf writes: “But for pain words are lacking. There should be cries, cracks, fissures, whiteness passing over chintz covers, interference with the sense of time, of space…”
Josephine Taylor’s debut novel, Eye of a Rook, is acutely attentive to those cracks and fissures through which the bodies of women in pain may fall. In a narrative that swings between Victorian England and contemporary Perth, the novel’s protagonist, Alice Tennant, considers what it means to experience pain for which there appears to be no cure or relief. Alternately denying and accepting her condition, Alice succumbs to a mysterious pain that not only limits her relationship with her husband Duncan but also affects her ability to do basic things she previously took for granted, such as sitting, eating, and working. As her marriage unravels, Alice finds comfort among other women in similar situations and goes on to encounter a book by the physician Isaac Baker Brown, an actual historical figure in Victorian London. Baker Brown classified women in pain as ‘hysterics’ and prescribed a treatment so terrifying that Alice is driven to new and creative reckonings with her own dilemma. The voice of Emily Rochford, one of his patients, speaks to Alice across the divide of time and place, and in becoming immersed in Emily’s story, Alice tries to make sense of her own. Eye of a Rook centres the voices of women in extreme pain in a compelling, intelligent, lyrical and distinctly feminist narrative.