RESONANCE AND REVOLT by Rosanne Rabinowitz
Eibonvale, p/b £10.19 (UK) 370 pages
Eibonvalepress, pb, £10.09
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
It is quite common for an anthology to have a theme and a range of authors to explore it in a variety of ways. Since minds hare off in different directions this can lead to a book that showcases different talents. More unusual is a collection of stories that have a common theme. There are some authors who have written a number of stories featuring the same characters and collected them together with each story adding another dimension to either the characters or settings. Rarely do you find a single author collection that has written disparate stories which tend to rotate around a common theme. This is the case with Rosanne Rabinowitz’s collection Resonance and Revolt.
In the majority of stories, whenever and wherever they are set, characters are either engaged in revolution or have actively participated in protest in their past. It is perhaps significant than often they are older and have moved on from an idealistic youth. At the same time, many of the stories have a resonance, not just with the past of the participants but with other pasts and other stories.
The first story in the collection ‘In The Pines’ sets the tone by combining several of the themes. The initial segment is a song of grief told by the woman whose husband died driving a train in 1875. The theme is taken up in the second segment when young Linda attends a folk festival as it was where her dead friend had intended to go. There she hears the song about the events in the first section, and takes her first steps into rebellion. The final section is an older Linda, now working as a journalist, is interviewing a musician with radical ideas about resonance and is reintroduced to the song. The song that forms the centre of the story’s structure is based on American folklore.
‘Return of The Pikart Posse’ contains some of the same themes – pine woods, music and like ‘In the Pines’ a mystical ending. Evelyn is in Eastern Europe researching a largely forgotten rebel group from the fifteenth century. It is when she meets Jan that she begins to understand what drove Maria, the putative leaders of the group. The theme of revolt in Mediaeval Europe continues in ‘Bells Of The Harelle’ where Seraphine is involved in the tax riots in France. The revolution of ‘The Matter Of Meroz’ is historically much more recent being set in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. All these stories are set against a background of actual events and exhibit details of research that is not allowed to intrude overly into the narrative.
Another real revolution, this time in 1919 Bavaria is part of the backstory between the narrator and a reclusive author in ‘Survivor’s Guilt’. Although she is looking back at her earlier exploits, there are other horror tropes at play here. While raking a totally different tone, the narrator in ‘These Boots’ fondly remembers taking part in the Poll Tax riots of 1990, as she tries to reduce her possessions before moving to a smaller place. ‘The Peak’ is set against a backdrop of the 2010 student riots during which, the narrator finds a mask. Wearing it, he gets glimpses of the past. This has echoes of ‘Lambeth North’ in which three middle-aged women (define middle-aged), reminisce about their past but, when one goes on a swing in a playground, she sees echoes of the past.
Both ‘Pieces Of Ourselves’ and ‘Keep Them Rollin’’ have a common theme in that the principal character meets their might-have-been selves if they had taken different choices in their pasts. In both cases they chose the more conventional route. They, like many of us, wondered what life would have been like if they had been a little more rebellious.
Among modern folklore tropes, trains are associated with death. As with the first story in this collection, so does the last, ‘The Turning Track’ (written with Mat Joiner). Here, Edwin has been sent a ticket for the Train by his dead lover. As he arrives at the station he is unsure if he will use it.
There are other stories in this volume. Most readers will find something among them that they will enjoy but don’t expect them to be conventional.