Source: Review Copy
Publication: 06 December 2017 from Saraband
Goblin is an oddball and an outcast. But she’s also a dreamer, a bewitching raconteur, a tomboy adventurer whose spirit can never be crushed. Running feral in World War II London, Goblin witnesses the carnage of the Blitz and sees things that can never be unseen…but can be suppressed. She finds comfort in her beloved animal companions and lives on her wits with friends real and imagined, exploring her own fantastical world of Lizard Kings and Martians and joining the circus.
In 2011, London is burning once again, and an elderly Goblin reluctantly returns to the city. Amidst the chaos of the riots, she must dig up the events of her childhood in search of a harrowing truth. But where lies truth after a lifetime of finding solace in an extraordinary imagination, where the distinction between illusion and reality has possibly been lost forever?
You know how, sometimes, you will be so engrossed in a book that you don’t want it ever to end? That’s not only how I felt about Goblin, but I physically stopped reading just before the end. Mostly it was because I didn’t want it to end, but partly also because I didn’t want to find out what Goblin had been trying not to say.
Ever Dundas is a storyteller’s story teller; a painter of mind pictures that conjure the ghostly, the weird and the downright grotesque. Her tales are gently reminiscent of Gaiman’s land of Neverwhere, deep under London’s foundations, where Lizard Kings and Martians play host to Goblin and her friends; both animal and human.
Goblin is a curious, gender fluid, mercurial creature. A somewhat feral child, struggling to cope with a household empty of demonstrable love and affection, save for her brother David, Goblin creates for herself a world away from the war torn London in which she must live and in the depths of Kensal Green cemetery she holds court with imagination, with gusto and with all the love that she can muster.
Obsessed with H.G. Wells and Frankenstein, she roams bombed out London with her dog Devil and her creation, Monsta, living on her wits and entertaining both friends and passers-by with her stories as she goes.
But when we first meet Goblin she is in Edinburgh’s Central Library where she is Reader in Residence and keeping company with Ben, a homeless man who is chewing his way through James Joyce. Our timeline moves between these two Goblins – the one who is asked to come back to riot-torn London to relive her childhood and shed light on an appalling event during the 2nd World War and Goblin the young child who is seeing first-hand the brutality and loss that war delivers.
We follow Goblin as she is evacuated to Cornwall and learns about love and then loss and we laugh with her as she slowly and determinedly makes her way back to London; a picara with a sole companion, Corporal Pig.
As we follow Goblin’s life from London to Europe and then to settle for a bit in Venice, we learn how Goblin the unloved child becomes Goblin the loving, compassionate woman.
Ever Dundas has a consummate skill with language and her words can so readily conjure feelings of both joy and sadness. It is astonishing that a novel this accomplished should be a debut. Her creation of an alternative world is not only a haven from the trauma of rejection and loss, but a refuge from man’s inhumanity to man. It is not so much that Goblin is an unreliable narrator as that she tells the stories she wants to believe are true and will go to extraordinary lengths to make them so.
As I finally reached for and finished that last chapter I cried. I cried from sadness and for loss. But I also cried because it’s such a lovely book.
I can’t praise it more highly than that.
About Ever Dundas
Ever Dundas gained a Creative Writing Masters with Distinction from Edinburgh Napier University in 2011, and she has a First Class Degree in Psychology and Sociology from Queen Margaret University. She has had several short stories and dark fairy tales published and her work has been shortlisted for awards. Goblin won the prestigious Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award this year.