by Alain Farah
Some books really lose me right from the get-go. This could be due to a myriad of reasons, but, in the case of Ravenscrag, it seemed to be because of the author’s misunderstanding of avant-garde, with scenes mashed together that appeared weird just for the sake of being weird. Before long, however, Farah redeemed himself, showcasing a muddled, mad genius that I was beginning to worry was absent from this work.
Explaining the plot of Ravenscrag is problematic, to say the least, given the unreliable narrator, the quick jumps between unrelated––or, at least, loosely related––events, and the blending of time periods. (Technology presented, such as electronic cigarettes, would often suggest 2012, but then we would encounter a character who died in the ’60s, suggesting that the narrator exists in some strange continuum that is both 1962 and 2012, rather than jumping between the two.) It may be a revenge story, in which the narrator seeks to kill the McGill psychiatrist who tampered with his memories and may have been involved in the deaths of family members, or possibly just the delusions of a demented man, or some sort of combination of both. The true skill the author exhibits is in the way he confidently gives out information, with no explanation, only to bring things together later on. He still provides little explanation, but a careful reader will spot the intense connectivity of such jumbled thoughts and events, leaving you satisfied if you ‘get it.’
As spectacular as I found Ravenscrag, I struggle with a recommendation, precisely because you need to have a great tolerance for the strange to appreciate it. If you ever attempt it, keep in mind the rhetorical questions Farah outlined in his book (originally posed by Ridley Scott to and, hilariously, answered by his film producers regarding Blade Runner): “Is it terrible to not understand a thing, if it’s beautiful? Can’t the emotion felt be just as important as understanding the plot?”