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nicola batty

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Dry Rot
by nicola batty   

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Literary Fiction

Publisher:  Rawprintz Manchester.. Type: 


Copyright:  Dec 1, 2009

Rawprintz Manchester..
Nicola's Web Site

Set in Manchester during the 1980's the seventen year old Francis tells of how she is sent to stay with her Uncle Robert who is a Catholic Priest. Bored and restless in his company Francis meets and is charmed instantly by the exotic Mary, who promises to liven up her dull summer. Meanwhile Uncle Robert feels his faith threatened by Francis and fears his soul is beginning to decay like the dry rot he sees attacking his church.

 The main theme of Dry Rot is decay, both human and moral - this is seen in Uncle Robert's church which is being ravaged by dry rot, and also in his Catholic faith which he feels threatened by Francis. The story is told by the teenage Francis in a direct style which highlights the panic she feels as the situation slips out of control. Although each chapter is named after a station of the cross, the book is not really a direct attack on the Catholic Church, but rather a disturbing account of human decay.

This novel is a very visual piece which is accompanied by a screenplay version of it, which is also written by the author.

St. Peregrine’s stood before me, nothing but an empty shell now, a shadow, a ghost of its’ former self. For a moment I felt almost overwhelmed by sadness, an acute sense of loss. I stood there, looking at the decay, thinking, oh, so it has come to this? I felt like crying. As I looked up at the few remaining fragments of mosaic clinging over the porch way, I thought of my own moral decay and the crucifix hanging on my Mother’s wall at home, the thrill that had run through me when I had turned it round so that Jesus had his nose pressed against the flowered wallpaper. The memory of it made me shiver. I turned away. I couldn’t enter the church, not this way, anyway. I descended the front steps and went round the back.
It was the same route that my Uncle had taken to get in. I could see that at once. There was a deep, fresh pathway trodden through the undergrowth, created very recently. As I pushed open the door, I could smell the cold stench of decay, even before I saw how the rot had advanced since the last time I had been here. That shot came back to me now with a startling clarity. It was as though I had gone back in time and nothing that had happened since that day had really happened at all. I gazed around me and saw my Uncle now, sitting on the very edge of the one remaining pew. He didn’t see me, he was hunched forward with his head in his hands, holding it delicately, gingerly between his fingers, as though he was afraid it would shatter, or (perhaps more likely) decompose into nothing. As I approached him slowly, he looked up, quite suddenly. Perhaps some angel had given him a nudge, to tell him of my presence there. He stared at me; his eyes were hollow and rimmed with red. He didn’t seem to recognise me. He stood up slowly. I hesitated, unsure what to do.
“Hello, Uncle,” I said, “I thought I’d find you here.”

Professional Reviews

by Stan Skibinski author of Hotel 27

The scene is suitably set, with an appropriately bland backdrop of depressing Old Trafford, Manchester…

Fran’s atmospherically charged retrospective recollections serve, not only to mix Sex with Religion to great effect, but also to expose the ‘anarchistic’ tendencies of Punk-era attitudes, for what they really were… distractions from the apathetic existence of a bored generation, whose virulent indifference to authority had taken root, flourished and spread, to Teen, and middle-age Wastelands alike.

The (larger-than-life…?) characters are illustrated to surreal perfection in this metaphor-laden, irreverent frolic through the ironies that spawned this ‘Dry Rot’ – most notably, Fran’s sexually confused (or confident…?) ‘Mentor’, Mary – quite contrary…and whose ‘garden’ grows… well… in both directions… conceiving a devil that, ultimately, foils the best laid plans for revenge, despite claiming two (or is it three… or even four…?) victims in the process.

Stan Ski
Elephant Small

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