[Book Review]: Catriona Ward’s Little Eve
Reading Catriona Ward is always a richly Gothic, intimate experience. You can’t quite trust the walls around you, but neither can you resist the pull. Little Eve, her latest to hit the US, is no exception. Within its pages is the kind of depth and draw that only comes from living with and knowing the world created inside out and upside down. Ward is the kind of writer who constantly surprises with her adept turns of the knife — just when you think you know where the characters are leading you, they pull the wool over your eyes and rip the carpet from beneath your feet — but with Little Eve it is strikingly obvious that she is able to do so because she knows her worlds and people so intimately.
A family cobbled together on the outskirts of a town hold themselves together with the strength of traditions. The town around them keep their distance with the wariness of rumor-filled fear. Uncle has a plan and a system not to be disrespected. Eve and her siblings are often too caught up in vying for his affections to notice the truth. When secrets come to light and the town around them begins to crumble under the weight of them, it will take everything they have to survive the wrath of the Adder.
As usual with Catriona Ward, to step too close to plot is to risk diving off the cliff and into spoilers, but it is no risk to say entering the world of Little Eve immediately has the feel and pull of a cult narrative long before the family themselves realize their reality. The impressive feat is that despite our knowing it ahead of time, the reveal for Eve is no less terrifying. Therein lies Ward’s greatest skill: to give you all the pieces right before your eyes and still shock with the ultimate picture.
Little Eve is both a devastating examination of family dependence and cult dynamics and a fascinating look into what and how mythologies of the mysterious are made. Just as Lizzie Borden received a children’s rhyme about her crimes, so too does Altnaharra have the air and town story of ghosts and death and daring risk. Somewhere between Bloody Mary and We Have Always Lived in the Castle lies the tale of Eve and the Adder, and what it takes to carve life and a future from a past riddled with shadows and threat of death.
All of Catriona Ward’s work has a bit of the Gothic at its heart, but perhaps none moreso than Little Eve, whose crumbling castle and haunted characters hearken to the soul of what makes a Gothic tale work best. That this is the novel credited with lauching Ward’s career is no surprise, given its intricacies and twisted depths. That it is her second written is a marvel; that it is finally arriving in the US in the coldly atmospheric months of autumn is a gift none should pass up.
I would like to thank Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for the opportunity to receive an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Little Eve hits US shelves October 11, 2022.