THE ABSOLUTE BOOK by Elizabeth Knox.
Michael Joseph. h/b. £14.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Taryn’s sister died holding a book. She loved libraries. No one really understands why Timothy Webber steered the car towards her. Perhaps not even he. Whatever the reason behind Beatrice’s death, he was jailed for manslaughter and Taryn has lived and breathed every moment of the investigation since. In a few years, she will have to face him. For now, a new husband will provide a distraction.
She has tried to forget. She has tried to move on. But on a hunting party, she meets someone. Someone to whom she can tell the whole story and every intention in her heart. Someone who listens, but someone who is not ready to say goodbye at the end of the trip. He is willing to do Taryn a dangerous favour, but the consequences will be heavy to carry.
The Absolute Book begins with Taryn in the aftermath of her sister’s death and moves forward through various stages of Taryn’s life – grief, marriage, separation, her career as an author, hospitalisation, another book in the making, guilt and beyond that into the realm outside of reality; a world that is not her own, with its own rules and confinements.
Though written mostly from Taryn’s point of view and focused on her experiences, the narrative takes an omniscient view at times, granting the reader a wider comprehension of the faerie world she enters and a deeper insight into the various characters she encounters in the different stages of her life.
This book is rife with the tropes, characters and deeds of many familiar myths and legends as well as incorporating details from historical events, but though promoted as a modern epic fantasy, The Absolute Book is far from that. Once Taryn moves beyond the realms of our world, the plot becomes meandering, complex, flighty and intangible, feeling rather more weighted towards magic realism than the literary, investigative mystery it began as.
The love of words and the importance of books comes across as a strong message from start to finish, but there is a vast dichotomy between the beginning and end of this book in terms of style, genre, storytelling, and so on, which many readers may find too jarring.