Monday, April 11, 2011

The Carmine Island stories from Glitter Rose by Marianne de Pierres

The Glitter Rose quartet is set against the stunning background of Carmine Island where a decade ago spores from deep in the ocean blew in by a freak of nature and settled there. Their strange phosphorescence brings a glitter rose dusk at certain tides.

Colourless at first, the sandy beaches rapidly become carpets of tiny, shining, rose-coloured grains as the sky darkens after sunset. These spores bring fierce allergies to the island locals. And maybe other, more sinister effects too. Follow Tinashi’s journey as she moves to the island, settles into island life and begins to discover just what is really happening on Carmine Island.

If you are coming to these elegant, truthful and sensuous stories for the first time I envy you. They’ll haunt your dreams, yes, but what fabulous dreams.– Trent Jamieson

My original plan when I decided to focus on short stories was to post about individual stories (much like I did for Relentless Adaptations) but that plan lasted only until I picked up Glitter Rose by Marianne de Pierres. This collection features five short stories, but four of those have the same characters, the same setting, and so are indelibly linked. It seems silly to review them separately, so instead in this post I will concentrate on the four linked stories and then I will post about the stand alone fifth story later.

In one way having the four stories connected makes this a really good collection for those of us who don't really normally read short stories, because the linked narrative and the chronological way they are put together in this book means that it is almost like reading different chapters in a novel.

In the first story, Glimmer-by-Dark, our main character Tanisha is returning to Carmine Island after years of being away. It is clear that Tanisha is escaping to Carmine right from the opening line:
I drifted back to Carmine Island on a whim - a fragment of memory - like a warm current. A means to float, no matter how much I wanted to drown.
In itself this decision is interesting given that Carmine Island has been afflicted by spores that have destroyed the islands tourism industry.

The spores had settled a decade ago, a freak of nature blown in from deeper waters, settling like a veil over Carmine, bringing with them fierce irritations and allergies. The residents who couldn't afford the expensive immunosuppressants, suffered the exotic, often terminal, afflictions of the spores. Holiday makers deserted - traded for those resolute in their seclusion. Tourism confined itself to the indolent young rich, clutching their antidote, Tyline, searching for the hint of danger to shift their inertia.
Tanisha is an outsider, but is soon taken in by a group of the locals who share with her the dangers of living in this place. Some of the dangers are obvious, but others are hidden in the strange and ethereal beauty that the spores have bought to the island:

With the last of the sunset, The Bara dropped to a breath, and strange phosphorescence claimed the sand, colourless at first and rapidly changing to a carpet of tiny, shining, rose-coloured grains. Something about them compelled me to hasten to the beach and run them through my fingers and toes.
But no one knows how the spores will affect them, and everyone is effected differently, and the danger is not only from the spores.

In Moonflowers at the Ritz, the focus shifts to some of the previously mentioned "indolent young rich" - "wealthy, youthful faces of the Ritz blended into a morass of prematurely softening features and casual sneers peculiar to those who never need concern themselves with money." The spores affect even those few tourists who come to the island, and the locals who are now Tinashi's companions, including the beautiful Lauren and the intense Katrin, do not remain unaffected by the chain of events that occur.

The third story is, I think, my favourite. In The Flag Game, we finally find out more about Tanisha, about what it is that has driven her to Carmine Island in the first place. When the butterflies come to Carmine it signifies a fertile year, and the flag game is played.
"The sandcastles are spore work, Tinashi.. No-one quite knows how they remain standing against the tides."

I thought of the immense, rose-tainted citadels that stoically endured wind and water. How I yearned to climb their ramparts at low tide and learn their secrets. Like everything on Carmine, the most dangerous things were the most enticing.

"When the butterflies swirl, the locals play a game among the castles. It must be completed before high tide, for no swimmer ca survive against the water's pull."

And what does the winner receive?" I asked, intrigued despite myself.

Katrin regarded me from underneath her lashes. I saw a flash of cruelty. "To outsiders the prize is seen to be a parcel of land but the truth is that the spores decide."
In the fourth and final story, Mama Ailon, both Tanisha and the reader get to know some of the indigenous population of Carmine. When a series of tragedies occur, Tanisha knows that she has something to do with it, but she doesn't know how, or why. Whilst the other three stories have been published elsewhere before being put into this collection, this one is a new story, and certainly feels like it brings the four stories to a suitable close.

The prose throughout the four short stories is powerfully beautiful and evocative, with what description there is of the island and the spores being sufficient to bring the world to life without spending pages and pages in world building - something that there really wouldn't be much space for in the short story format. I can see myself revisiting these stories time and time again.

I have mentioned a number of times before that I am a read in order kind of girl. It would have to be exceptional circumstances for me to know that the book I was reading was not the next book chronologically in a series. The reason why I mention this is that before being bought together in one collection in chronological order, these four stories were published individually in different magazines which led me to wonder how they would stand up if you read the third story first for example. I can't unread the stories in order to try and read out of order. From what I can imagine they would, as evidenced by the fact that at least one of the stories, The Flag Game, was longlisted for a BSFA (British Science Fiction Award) when it was originally published.

I do have to say something about the quality of this book. It is a gorgeous pink coloured small sized hardcover, with illustrations included. It is not a cheap book by any stretch of the imagination, but it does feel and look gorgeous and includes several illustrations (which can also be seen at Marianne de Pierres website) and so for me was worth the money. I was also very excited when I opened the book and saw that I had managed to buy a signed copy. It was only later that I found out that it is a limited edition and that every copy is signed!

My plan is to post about the final story in the collection (a non Carmine Island story) in the next week or so.

This post was produced as part of Aussie Author Month, counts for the Aussie Author Challenge, and also counts for the Short Story Quest in the Once Upon a Time challenge.

1 comment:

  1. Those beaches sound beautiful, but also really dangerous as well! This sounds like a really interesting read. Thanks for sharing it with us!