cover image The Wood of Suicides

The Wood of Suicides

Laura Elizabeth Woollett. Permanent, $28 (192p) ISBN 978-1-57962-350-0

“There was the undeniable fact of my Electra complex,” self-diagnoses 17-year-old Laurel Marx, narrator of this pedophiliac drama told from the Lolita’s perspective. Viewing herself as the union of intellectual manhood and sensuous womanhood, Laurel worships and desires the former in her father, while jealously despising the latter in her mother. Following her father’s death, her unresolved sexual fantasies transfer to her poetry teacher, Mr. Hugh Steadman, a married man 25 years her senior. They embark on a torrid love affair, and though Laurel hardly takes pleasure from their violent intercourse, she has internalized so much misogyny that she welcomes the abuse. With her debut, Woollett offers a brutal study of female self-loathing: Laurel recoils at all semblance of womanhood, regretting her birth into a gender incongruous with divinity. Romanticizing her lover’s desecration of her “pale, frail, and green” body, she remains anorexic in order to avoid developing a womanly figure, and agonizes over her inevitable maturation. The descriptions are over the top—Laurel is “a pre-Raphaelite’s dream come true” with a “pout petal pink and obstinately wistful.” The novel successfully creates a disturbing, ethically ambiguous effect, but the prose, though true to the voice of a lovelorn, troubled teenager, feels overwrought. (Jan.)