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THE NIGHT ALPHABET
THE NIGHT ALPHABET

Joelle Taylor has already earned a reputation as an impressionable, award-winning poet and this skill for writing has created a narrative in her first novel “The Night Alphabet’ that transcends the boundaries of storytelling.

- best book club reads - 

Readability

★★★★★★★✰✰✰

Talkability

★★★★★★★★★✰

Den scores

★★★★★★★★✰✰

THE NIGHT ALPHABET

BY JOELLE TAYLOR

432 pages

Joelle Taylor has already earned a reputation as an impressionable, award-winning poet and this skill for writing has created a narrative in her first novel “The Night Alphabet’ that transcends the boundaries of storytelling. Taylor has a superlative gift with words and imagery which she combines with her poetic style of writing which she describes as ‘feminist queer futurism’. It is totally compelling, but also at times rather incomprehensible, thus ensuring its place as our Wild Card read this month.

It's the 23rd century and a woman called Jones enters a tattoo parlour where two women, Cass and her younger assistant Small work. Already covered in distinctive tattoos, Jones asks to have each one linked with a thin line of blood and ink which reluctantly Cass agrees to do and as the doorway to each tattoo is unveiled, Jones goes on a 'journey of remembering'. All the stories are about the repression of women and impact of patriarchy across different timespans. The opening story is set in Lancashire (where Taylor grew up) and set in a period when young girls were not allowed to work in the Lancashire mines alongside the boys and women earned less wages for doing the same job. There is a wonderful story about the exploitation of sexual workers or gutter girls as they are referred to – the male pimp is referred to as a mosquito - before the women start to rebel and fight back. This story was influenced by Taylor’s experiences as part of the women’s peaceful protest camps on Greenham Common in the 1980’s. The solidarity of community is a strong theme throughout the book. The final story called “The Woman Wasn’t There” imagines a scenario in which women and girls simply vanish – and worse, are humiliated by this act of being wiped off the earth for simply being female.

Some stories are figure of 8’s or circles and difficult to find your way out of. We learn that her mother and grandmother could also disappear into trances of different times and places and so all three start going together in their “rememberings”, landing in the same story but in separate bodies which allows for assorted perspectives.

The language is charged and alive and some of the stories shocking and inconceivable, but there is no denying the brightness and modernistic innovative writing. Here are a few examples to savour

“In my family people don’t have gap years. They have unemployment.”
“Money can buy anything except poverty”
“Outside the night is talking to itself. A shout. A choir of sirens. A sudden laugh. A relative who never ages. A boomerang town.”
“A face as cold as a fuel bill”
"Poems are keys for doors that have forgotten their locks"
and finally
“All of it and none of it makes sense.” which pretty much sums up this book! If you’re looking for a vibrant and powerful alternative read for your book club this would be a great place to start, especially as a sequel is already being written.

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