I had to read Cherie Priest’s Maplecroft in two chunks, thanks to Ohio’s e-book program, but the wait was worth it. Priest has incorporated Lizzie Borden as a detective of the supernatural, providing yet another take on a story that has been retold many times (my favorite is Angela Carter’s, reviewed here), and she also adds Lovecraft to it in ways that feel almost plausible.
As always, notes:
- the possession of scientists by Mother (an interesting take on Cthulthu) is a nice touch – late 19th century science figures into this story in many ways, and it provides Lovecraft with his pseudo-scientific rationale for eugenics/physiognomy, hints of which appear in the novel.
- positing Lizzie Borden as someone capable of inhabiting a position that can speak with the spiritualist movement of the 19th century *and* members of the scientific establishment as a late Victorian gentlewoman amateur scientist takes the Borden story someplace really interesting.
- Priest noticing the connection between Fall River, Massachusetts and Lovecroft’s fictitious Arkham is wicked clever.
- Rewriting Lovecraft with Borden is a way to lovingly acknowledge his brilliance while also not ignoring what a racist he was…the horror of drowning without drowning that she invokes (the chosen method of possession/thralldom of humans by Mother) calls on cultural fears of the primeval and blood magic that are to be banished with science, but she stays true to the horror roots by not giving us a firm answer as to whether or not the sea will come back…
Reading Priest is usually worth it…