I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Mrs. Caliban from Netgalley.
Mrs. Caliban is a novella, originally published in 1982. The novel follows Dorothy, a depressed housewife whose children have died and whose husband is unfaithful, as she potentially meets a large sea monster. As we all know, sea monsters are sexy.
Unless there is no sea monster at all.
Narrated in a matter-of-fact manner that in no way dissuades from the notion that there is a good chance the protagonist is mentally ill, this novella forces the reader to wonder what the reality of the novel is. The problems – the tangled soap opera that is Dorothy’s life, the death, the specifics of the infidelity, are clear to the reader before being officially revealed in the novella. To be honest, it is unclear to me if the work is written that way on purpose or not.
Personally, I get the impression that this novella is written with some intent, yet that some of what might be construed as literary purposefulness is actually poor writing. Dorothy is described almost mechanically, yet she is not an emotionless robot, as it is clear she is no longer medicating herself to be an emotionless vacuum, and also an emotionless person would not deal with her husband’s shit as long as she has, or even be interested in saving or having sexy times with a lizard.
I feel that this novella is interesting, conceptually, but that the concept is not quite pulled off. If you are looking for a short read, and you like the story or idea more than the writing and characterization, give it a try. Otherwise, you might want to pass.