Publication Date: June 7th from OneWorld
Source: Review Copy
Orchid & the Wasp brings to life the charged, compulsive voice of Gael Foess – daughter of a self-interested investment banker and a once-formidable orchestral conductor, and sister to a vulnerable younger brother – as she strives to build a life raft in the midst of economic and familial collapse. Moving by wits alone, Gael cuts a swathe through the leather-lined, coke-dusted social clubs of London, the New York gallery scene and birth-throes of the Occupy movement.
Written in heart-stoppingly vivid prose, Orchid & the Wasp is a modern-day Bildungsroman that chews through sexuality, class and contemporary politics and crackles with joyful fury and anarchic gall. It examines how we can fail our loved ones by what we want for them; what makes for a good life; what we are owed and what we must earn; and how events in our lives can turn us into people we never intended to be.
This is a beautiful literary novel with one of the most powerful character voices I’ve seen in a while. Hugely likely to be a divisive character, Orchid and the Wasp follows Gael Foess, as she rockets through life, sure of herself but also losing parts of herself to her determination to help her brother, even when he doesn’t really want to be helped.
This is a story with a rich, vivid sense of place and character sense of self. I found Gael hard to love on occasion but got completely immersed into her world, she is pushy, clever, deceptive and always always intriguing. This is a story about how we push and push those we love, pull and pull at our own self worth, sometimes breaking that which we seek to fix. Gael doesn’t see her vulnerability she is proud and accomplished and knows what she is doingbut we, the reader, see the cracks and the breaks in her facade.
The backdrop of the gallery scene and the Occupy movement is a compelling one and Caoilinn Hughes describes it all with an edgy, intense and powerful prose, allows Gael to lead us through it with a gripping, almost quietly observant style – so you live this novel through the beautiful writing and the emotionally skittish character voice.
I loved it although I can see it won’t be for everyone – the language is modern, cool and unique, there is a huge talent here at work and I can’t wait to see what this author does next.
I’m sorry to leave Gael behind.