Memory, wrote Mr. Beattie, presents us with thoughts of what is past accompanied with a persuasion that they were once real. The ambiguity so delighted my father that with my mother’s permission I was named Memory—a curious coincidence considering this memoir which has seized the lion’s part of my relic years. I write from the new century about the old, my purpose to reanimate planets that have long ceased to spin.
So begins Memory’s recollection of the lives of her family—both parents and their mental disintegration and her mute sister, Etheria, with whom she shared a sororal connection that neither time nor space could diminish—plus a cadre of characters including Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), close friend to both girls and their parents; the fabulously wealthy and selfish industrialist, Radulph Tubbs, with his doomed intent to entirely possess the ethereal Etheria; the crazed architect, Baconfield; the malevolent Hungerkünstler, whose presence haunts all the males (except Dodgson).
The novella, with its lush language grabbed me and ran. I’m very reluctant to call it a fantasy, although it certainly contains the fantastic, because it clings to the possible, envisions the sublime. Dammit, it’s a stunner. The Jade Cabinet is the final part of a tetralogy, each with a theme from the alchemical elements, in this case air. This one soars.
Five stars, unashamedly, highly recommended. I’ll definitely be searching out the other three volumes in the sequence, perhaps even checking out other works by the writer/artist. She’s that good.