Posts tagged ‘Ottessa Moshfegh’

July 8, 2022

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

by Team Riverside

Jonathon Cape, Hardback, £14.99, out now

Ottessa Moshfegh’s latest novel is set in the fictional eastern European village of Lapvona, sometime in the Middle Ages. Lapvona is dirty, highly religious and poverty stricken. It is presided over by a Trumpian lord, Villam, who only cares about what joke he can make next. Villam is unwilling or unable to notice when his subjects are starving and thirsty whilst he hoards water in the grounds of his palace. In a departure from Moshfegh’s usual close first-person narration, Lapvona moves through a large cast of characters. Other figures include Marek, a disabled boy who is abused by his religious father, Father Barnabas the corrupt town priest, and Ina, a sometime apothecary and witch.

Moshfegh revisits some of the themes of her early work, the various ways that wealth corrupts, visceral depictions of the body, strange and unlikeable narrators. But the medieval setting is a striking departure from her earlier work and this new direction pays off in spades. Lapvona is a fictional setting but Moshfegh’s detailed portrayal of life for the inhabitants of Lapvona feels extremely vivid. The characters, while unsympathetic, are universally compelling. The gory elements are expertly deployed, as beautifully created as they are horrifying. The content is not for the faint of heart, (there is blood, guts, and even cannibalism) but I highly recommend this fantastically well-written novel, particularly for fans of Moshfegh’s first novella McGlue.

Review by Phoebe

September 10, 2020

Death In Her Hands, Ottessa Moshfegh

by Team Riverside

Jonathon Cape Vintage, Paperback, Fiction, £14.99, out now

Vesta Gull lives by herself, dependent on her dog Charlie for company, she feels alienated from the people in local town, she is seemingly destined to spend the rest of her life alone, until she discovers a threatening note in the woods and her world is transformed. ‘Her name was Magda, nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.’

Moshfegh’s other novels such as My Year of Rest and Relaxation seem to be inspired by writers such as Bret Easton Ellis, but Death In Her Hands is an altogether different adventure, a mystery in the mode of Shirley Jackson. In this case the ghosts vividly inhabit Vesta’s imagination, she is haunted by the voice of her controlling late husband and by the dead body of the girl she believes is lying in the woods. The people she imagines, such as ‘Blake’ the author, she thinks, of the note are often as real as the townspeople she encounters, creating an unsettlingly fragile boundary between real events and Vesta’s imagination.

As a fan of Moshfegh’s writing I found this to be an interesting foray into the mystery genre, Moshfegh twists the reader’s expectations all the way up to the novel’s horrifying and brilliant conclusion.

Review by Phoebe