Generally a review starts out with plot or characters, but I’m not going to discuss those things here. This novel utilizes plot and characters as tools, like a keyboard or a word processor to convey deeper meanings. I believe the deeper meanings are what this author wanted to convey to the reader, not the names of the characters or the plot. There are terrific characters that I’m sure other reviewers will discuss at length, and an entire review could be written about each main character. It is certainly not for the lack of material or quality of material that I am purposefully avoiding these topics, it is because the author skillfully used these as tools for a larger purpose and I want to honor that larger purpose.
Mark Gordon is the author of The Snail’s Castle. He is an independent author and this is his third novel. You can learn more about Mark on his website.
Literary Fiction or Genre Fiction
This is literary fiction to me. Others may disagree, but I will stand firm on the arguable position that this is, indeed, literary fiction. This novel needs to be read more than once to fully soak int all its meaning and subtleties. I must admit that I have only read it once, though I intend to read it again to gain more insight into its more subtle meanings.
Let the Subtleties Begin
I found a couple of themes in the novel. The first of which is choices. The Snail’s Castle brilliantly looks at choices from a fresh angle. We all have choices in life and the author reveals in the novel what happens when we fail to choose or to make a choice. People are often cautioned about making the “wrong” choice, but the author is making an argument that not making a choice at all can be far worse.
He makes this argument through one of the supporting characters. The author does this without sharing one inner thought of this character. Yes, all through showing. The author skillfully leads the reader along the journey showing through action, interaction, and observation the supporting character’s struggle with making a single choice. We see the results of indecision as clearly as the sun on a cloudless day, all without the author writing from this character’s point of view at all. Impressive and brilliantly executed.
The next theme I noted was dreams as in goals. The author certainly covers his share of dreams in the novel which may add to the confusion a bit here, but I believe the theme is a person’s aspirations or goals in life and if these dreams or aspirations are really what we need. How many of the aspirations and dreams that we had when we were younger actually came to fruition? How many of the dreams that did not come true are you now glad did not come true?
The author again shows us that not everything that we want out of life is something that we need or that is best for us. He shows us through the main character that holding on too tightly to a dream or aspiration just because that is all you’ve ever wanted is foolish and can be dangerous. The author also shows the reader that holding on to anything to the point of strangulation is also equally dangerous and often doesn’t work out, but perhaps for the best.
And here Mark Gordon leaves us with an impossible question, to which he alludes to in his book, which is better (or worse)–not making a choice through constant indecision or holding on to a choice that had previously been made for far too long. That is the dilemma or the impossible question the reader is left with. I cannot answer this question and Mark Gordon leaves this answer up to the reader to answer for him or herself.
Book Within a Book
I cannot write a book review without mentioning the book within the book. The most surreal part of reading this book was that it was about a book called The Snail’s Castle. The book in the book was a wonderful stream of consciousness or subconscious dream outlining one of the character’s inner conflicts. A brilliant idea flawless in execution. To discuss this book anymore in this review would most certainly be spoilers! So I will take head from River Song and shout “Spoilers” before running away.
As You Read The Snail’s Castle
Along your journey into the lives of these characters, and in some cases into their subconscious, the writing is a beautiful prose reminiscent of poetry. He has a unique voice that is both easy to read and follow and his descriptions of characters and the world they live in is vivid and encompassing. His descriptions are so vivid that I feel as if I am present in the story smelling history, tasting the air, feeling the cold deep in my bones, and seeing the character’s faces in exquisite detail.
I Highly Recommend this Novel for Anyone who…
- Loves reading
- Loves discovering the underlying themes in novels such as Withering Heights or To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Loves reading well written novels with beautiful prose and descriptions which are poetic
- Wants to read how an author implemented Jungian philosophy well into a novel
- Enjoys literary fiction.
I See this Book Becoming a Classic One Day,
So read it now while you can so you can say that you read it when it first came out. You can say that you own a first edition. He has a contest on his website to give away a free signed paperback copy of his novel. I would recommend you signing up for it, I know I am.