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Camilla Grudova

Författare till The Doll's Alphabet

4+ verk 281 medlemmar 9 recensioner

Verk av Camilla Grudova

The Doll's Alphabet (2017) 204 exemplar
Children of Paradise (2022) 67 exemplar
The Coiled Serpent (2023) 6 exemplar
Ancient Ghost Stories (2023) 4 exemplar

Associerade verk

Year's Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 4 (2017) — Bidragsgivare — 28 exemplar
Year's Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5 (2018) — Bidragsgivare — 26 exemplar
Uncertainties Volume IV (2020) — Bidragsgivare — 7 exemplar
Come Join Us by the Fire Season 2 (2020) — Bidragsgivare — 6 exemplar
An invite to eternity : tales of nature disrupted (2019) — Bidragsgivare — 2 exemplar


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*LONGLISTED for the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction*


“Picture houses are built for dreams, lies and fantasies. The plaster creatures clinging to the walls and ceilings, the fairground effect of all those lights and mirrors can only be accessory to the wildest illusions, the grandest, most unrealistic seductions.”

Children of Paradise by Camilla Grudova follows our narrator Holly (not her real name ) through her stint as an usherette in an old and dilapidated single-screen independent movie theatre “The Paradise” described as “a Frankenstein’s monster of a place” with trapdoors leading into the sewers, hidden doors and an eerie, mysterious vibe. The Paradise screens modern money makers as well as classic cinema, serving popcorn and snacks and equipped with a bar (the snacks et al, as Sally the Manager points out, is a main source of their revenue). Initially, Holly, who is new to the unnamed city, feels isolated from her coworkers and it takes a while for her to be accepted into their fold. Eventually, she becomes a part of the group, joins them in their late-night screenings and house parties, shares drugs they pilfer from what is left behind by their customers and also indulges in a torrid affair with a coworker. In other words, her life is defined by her association with The Paradise and her coworkers – a family of poorly paid movie-loving people - and she seems to settle into a rhythm that is disrupted when the theatre is sold to a corporate bigwig after the eccentric owner Iris (with whom Holly has quite a few interesting interactions) passes on. The changes are unwelcome, the employees are resentful and fearful of losing their jobs and the cinema is gradually being transformed – in more ways than one.

Camilla Grudova excels at world-building. Each chapter begins with the name of a film, which I found interesting, as is the fact that the title of the book is also taken from a classic French film. The story pays homage to classic cinema and independent theatres and how the movie-going experience has changed over time. I won’t say that any of the characters are particularly likable or interesting but her characterizations read like caricatures - from the glamorous manager Sally, and the eccentric owner Iris, to the quirky employees and the new assistant manager Andrew. The author uses vivid imagery in describing the old building complete with rather disgustingly detailed descriptions of the interiors and the day-to-day cleanup and maintenance, which is off-putting. An element of satire is introduced into the narrative as we follow the gradual phasing out of the old cinema as it becomes a part of a popular profit-centered corporate chain. Overall this novella is an immersive read with a Gothic feel, elements of surrealism and satire that turns dark and disturbing as the story progresses. An intense read that left me more than a tad unsettled. Not quite an enjoyable read for me personally, but definitely compelling and memorable.
… (mer)
srms.reads | 1 annan recension | Sep 4, 2023 |
The Paradise is an ancient cinema, now well past its prime, situated in an unnamed city in an unnamed country:

It was built on the ground floor of a block of flats around the time of the outbreak of the First World War, its entrance like the building’s gaping outh, a sparkling marquee teeth grin with the word PARADISE written in pale yellow neon.

The cinema is also built over a sewer and drainage overflows into the hall at strategic points in the book. It exudes a sense of filth and grime.

On a whim, the narrator, Holly, joins the underpaid staff of the Paradise and is slowly accepted into their coterie, made up of eccentric movie-loving misfits. The staff spend long hours at the Paradise. Days and nights passed in the cinema are followed by binge-watching of classic and art films at their respective dingy apartments. Despite the fact that the Paradise is dilapidated and their working conditions far from great, these eccentrics feel an intimate connection to the dirty old building, to the point that Helen occasionally has (drug-fuelled?) “time-slip” experiences haunted by visions the cinema’s past. When the owner of the Paradise dies, the cinema is taken over by a chain, leading to an outbreak of bloody violence.

This is novel best appreciated by cinema buffs. Its title is a tribute to Marcel Carné’s Les Enfants du Paradis, and each of the chapters is named after a different classic movie, which creates interesting parallels and counterpoints with the facts described in the respective chapters. Grudova draws on her love for the cinema and her experiences working as an usherette at the Cameo in Edinburgh after moving there from her native Canada. I’ve read elsewhere that Iris, the cinema owner, is based on a real character.

There is also a magical feel to the novel – which gets darker and darker, moving into Gothic and horror territory. The final chapters, an angry indictment of capitalism and gentrification, reminded me of other socially conscious contemporary novels, such as Fiona Mozley’s [b:Hot Stew|54110441|Hot Stew|Fiona Mozley||84458512].

There is, in other words, much to admire and dig into here, but I must admit that the novel was not for me. The pervasive sense of oppressive filth and decay (rather than “decadence” in the Romantic fin-de-siecle sense of the word) wore me down, and I found the novel’s obsession with bodily fluids, secretions and excretions gross and off-putting. Considering the nightmarish aspects and atmosphere of the Paradise, (let alone its working conditions) I found it hard to understand the staff’s connection with it and why they would take its takeover so much to heart.

Children of Paradise is receiving rave reviews and I can understand why, but unfortunately, I cannot bring myself to join the chorus of acclaim.
… (mer)
JosephCamilleri | 1 annan recension | Feb 21, 2023 |
‘’A woman discovered that a bunch of her jewels had faces carved into them, someone else a gargoyle tattoo on their back, and a car was found with three stone kings sitting inside.’’

I had read a number of reviews and articles on Camilla Grudova’s work but I hadn’t found the chance to familiarise myself with her writing. Now that I’ve read The Doll’s Alphabet, all I can say is that I have found a new writer whose books I’ll always choose without even glancing at the blurb. This is a mesmerizing collection.

Traces of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood can be found in these stories but I would say that Grudova has established a style of her own and can be considered a household name that needs no comparisons. Personally, I found her writing to be miles ahead of Atwood’s short stories and the features of Magical Realism are presented in a more whimsical, ethereal yet terrifying way than Carter, even when we’re dealing with ‘’heavy’’ themes. And every story serves serious themes related to womanhood, gender dynamics and freedom.

Setting her stories in fluid time periods, in unnamed cities and countries, Grudova uses recurring motifs to comment on transformation and development, the woman’s struggle to escape a world dominated by men and a society that ‘’honours’’ preconceived notions about woman with religious devotion, imposing false expectations on the women’s shoulders. The sewing machine is an instrument that creates tailor-made clothes and tailor-made ideas. Women use this invention to create their own visions and escape. Same goes for dolls that retain a prominent position throughout the collection. The doll is one of the simulacra of life and, let us be honest, the deep desire of the society to regard women as dolls that need to stay pretty, delicate and above all silent. Well, thank you very much but no.

Still, love exists even in terrifying settings. There may be dysfunctional couples but desire and love haven’t vanished. Feelings change, bound to external factors that influence our lives and change is fundamental to achieve independence. These are the 13 stories created by a brilliant mind.

Unstitching: A woman unstitches herself. Soon, more women follow her example much to the dismay of their husbands and partners. A simple yet powerful metaphor of expressing your true self and the difficulty of being a woman.

The Mouse Queen: A couple of young academics specializing in Latin. The corpse of a female dwarf, pagan gods, Catholicism, Ovid, dolls, English Literature, Greek Mythology, motherhood and, naturally, Tchaikovsky and The Nutcracker in a story that is the definition of perfection.

The Gothic Society: A Gothic Society creates havoc in a community. A story that is extremely short, cryptic and exciting.

Waxy: A totalitarian state where women are taught how to ‘’support’’ and ‘’please’’ their Men, where participation in the Exams is mandatory, where the regime’s Philosophy Books have become twisted Bibles. A community where privacy is nonexistent, where chemicals leave women bold, where people disappear overnight. A terrifying story about birth control and motherhood, twist and betrayal, relationships and freedom of choice in a state that seems like a more twisted version of the Soviet era. A story that rings all the bells for the current political situation in the USA and in many European countries.

The Doll’s Alphabet: Make of this what you will. I loved it…

The Mermaid: An interesting take on the Selkie myth in a haunting story about marriage and lost chances with references to folklore and Greek Mythology.

Agata’s Machine: Agata has created a rather extraordinary sewing machine...I felt extremely connected to her views on life and I was fascinated by the use of the Pierrot and the Angel as archetypes.

Rhinoceros: A story of a couple that struggles to serve a very particular vision of Art. It may sound simple but the last three pages of this tale will have you stare in shock for minutes…

The Sad Tale of the Sconce: A tale about the ‘’offspring’’ of a wooden mermaid. About sailors, antiques and the circle of life. A haunting story reminiscent of Japanese myths and with a strong influence of Angela Carter. There is an aura of dark sexuality in this tale that makes it extremely powerful and memorable. And did I mention the footnotes at the end?

Edward, Do Not Pamper the Dead: The story of two strange people, set in a country resembling the members of the Soviet Union. Poverty, independence, relationships. And an unusual cemetery.

Hungarian Sprats: What if we had the opportunity to can everything, literally everything, in order to protect and maintain our possessions? It sounds positively scary but for Baron Dambski it becomes an obsession.

The Moth Emporium: A vintage costume shop surrounded by a fence of dismembered mannequin limbs painted blue. A story rich in Danish Literature, Art, culture and the aura of bygone eras. As we approach the end, things take a sinister turn…

Notes From A Spider: The thoughts of a spider in an old European capital. A story definitely inspired by Kafka.

If I had to compare Grudova to another writer, my choice would be Isak Dinesen. Magical Realism, sexuality, feminism, independence. This collection will stay with you long after you read the last page. If you give this collection a chance -even though the themes may seem ‘’dark’’ to you-you will discover one of the most unique stops of your reading journey.

‘’The angel hasn’t come back since you left. He’s waiting for you.’’
… (mer)
AmaliaGavea | 6 andra recensioner | May 25, 2019 |
Interestingly strange and strangely interesting stories, intriguing fascination with sewing machines
francesanngray | 6 andra recensioner | Jan 25, 2019 |



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