Friday, April 11, 2008

The Black Book of Secrets

In Higgins's the Black Book of Secrets we have a narrative structure composed of three separate narrators. A brilliant decision that works well to keep the reader enthused with the story. As with many published books it is a masterclass in the ways of doing things right.

As Higgins writes in the blurb:
I came across Joe Zabbidou's Black Book of Secrets and Ludlow Fitch's memoirs in a rather curious manner. They were tightly rolled and concealed within the hollow of a wooden leg. When I unrolled them the pages were brittle and water-stained, and much was illegible. The fragments are reproduced here exactly as they were written. As for the parts that were missing, what could I do but draw upon my imagination to fill the gaps?

I pieced the story together as I thought best. I do not claim to be its author, merely the person who has tried to reveal it to the world.
So it is that we have:
  1. Fragments from the Memoirs of Ludlow Fitch - 1st person pov, past tense

    When I opened my eyes I knew that nothing in my miserable life prior to that moment could possibly be as bad as what was about to happen. I was lying on the cold earthen floor of a basement room lit by a single candle, no more than an hour's burning left. Instruments of a medical nature hung from hooks in the beams. Dark stains on the floor suggested blood. But it was the chair against the opposite wall that fully confirmed my suspicions. Thick leather straps attached to the arms and the legs were there for one purpose only: to hold down an unwilling patient. Ma and Pa were standing over me.

  2. Narrative purportedly to have been made up by Higgins to fill out the gaps in the memoirs - 3rd person pov, past tense

    It was not easy to describe Joe Zabbidou accurately. His age was impossible to determine. He was neither stout nor thin, but perhaps narrow. And he was tall, which was a distinct disadvantage in Pagus Parvus. The village dated from times when people were at least six inches shorter and all dwellings were built accordingly. In fact, the place had been constructed during the years of the 'Great Wood Shortage'. The king at the time issued a decree that every effort must be made to save wood, with the result that doors and windows were made smaller and narrower than was usual and ceilings were particularly low.

  3. Extracts from the Black Book of Secrets consisting of confessions - 1st person pov, present and past tense

    My name is Obadiah Strang and I have a terrible secret. It haunts my every waking hour, and at night when I finally manage to sleep it takes over my dreams.

    I might only be a humble gravedigger but I am proud of it. I have never cheated anyone: they get six feet, no more, no less. I have always led a simple life. I need very little and I ask for nothing. I was a contented man until some months ago when I fell foul of my landlord, Jeremiah Ratchet.
Higgins has used a different voice, particularly for each of the confessions, and their use breaks up the narrative structure to give a different view and feel. It works, maintaining (for the moment at least) my interest. Each has varying levels of info dumpage (check out the 2nd style)


Crowe said...

I'd be interested to know what you think of this when you've finished it. I liked the first chapter a lot, and then liked every subsequent chapter a little less until by the end of it I was sorely disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...I have to say, I *loved* the book. I've just finished reading it and I enjoyed it immensely.

At first I found the book a bit slow-moving and draggy. I only found myself actually wondering what was going to happen next near the middle of the book.

The ending was slightly unrealistic (it is a fantasy book after all) but a good ending nonetheless. Higgins managed to tie up all the loose ends *and* leave me hungry for more.

I hope you enjoy the book, I definitely did! ^_^