Anna Smaill’s Debut Novel Communicated Through Music
New Zealand poet Anna Smaill’s debut novel The Chimes, reviewed in the Independent, is “dystopian fiction but not quite as we know it.”
“Smaill draws on her training as a classical violinist to create a world where people communicate via music,” Lucy Scholes writes.
“The sound of a great instrument – the Carillon – fills the airwaves morning and night. ‘Matins’ tells ‘Onestory’, the ‘bass’ of life: an account of the ‘dischord’ that shattered the world – the break between then and now, and the time when the old ways, the written word and memory, were banished. Then at ‘Vespers’ it is ‘Chimes’: ‘Solo and forte, strong enough to bring you to your knees, put you in your place. Different every time, and always changing.’
“Simon Wythern arrives in the city following the death of his mother, alone in the world bar the bag of ‘objectmemories’ – the things infused with now forgotten personal significance every person keeps close. He falls in with a band of mudlarks who scour the ‘under” – the tunnels beneath the city – for nuggets of palladium, the material with which the Carillon is made. At first there’s no before; his days are kept in tune by the regularity of Onestory and Chimes – ‘the world is shown in perfect order in the music. There is no space for any other thought” – and his ‘bodymemory’, the muscle memory that allows for daily routines and work. Then, slowly, he starts to remember why he came to London in the first place.
“There are certain similarities with Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy, not least because the city of Oxford plays an important role, and as such Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season series is also worth a mention – it’s a similar story of the repression of the masses from a central stronghold of power and intellect.”
Smaill was born in Auckland in 1979. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington and completed a PhD at University College London.
Original article by Lucy Scholes, The Independent, February 12, 2015.
Photo by Natalie Graham.