The Silver Box
This second novel from Elst (The Mouse Oracle), about the life of Minnie Baume, is an oddity that will likely fail to resonate with readers. As an infant in Turkey in 1887, Baume is purchased by an affluent family in Zanzibar. Eleven years later, she returns to Constantinople and meets her birth-mother, who gives her a silver box that may have magical healing powers. Many readers won't make it this far, discouraged by the turgid prose and lengthy one-sentence paragraphs: "Showing great pride in themselves, which may be described as deriving from the pride of being Masai, the warriors leaned on their spears and stared at the white woman as if she were a bat that had just emerged from a cave or hollow log, ready to engage in blind attacks on them." Elst tosses in encounters with angels, descriptions of male genitalia considered exciting by Baume, and a litany of wild animals to which her heroine becomes attached. The result is a bizarre mishmash.