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Book Review

Book Cover

The Oz Suite


Author: Gerard Houarner
RRP: £6.75, US $21.00
ISBN: 978 0 9555268 3 1
Available 01 September 2008

Oz is one of the most famous literary images to cross over into the dark streets of the real world. It represents the symbol for all things other. Over the rainbow. At the far end of the yellow brick road. In the shadowy parts of the brain. Where the witches and the wizards and the flying monkeys are. Oz is something that transcends childhood, adulthood, here, there, inside, outside, the mind, reality. It's also the soil and fertilizer that Gerard Houarner uses to grow three substantial stories. Three studies of how the mind, the imaginary and the real interact. And how they can blur and become fused...

I guess, like most people, I have at many points in my life watched The Wizard of Oz (1939). For many a year it was compulsory Christmas viewing, I may even have read a few of the novels including the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L. Frank Baum. Regardless of this it certainly hadn’t made the same impression on me as it so obviously has on Gerard Houarner creator of the three stories which make up The Oz Suite.

The Oz Suite consists of three stories linked by an Oz theme, ‘No We Love No One’, ‘Bring Me the Head of that Little Girl Dorothy’ and ‘The Wizard Will See You Now’. Like the best of fairy tales these are dark and disturbing forays into the human psyche, not the stuff of children’s books at all. Although Oz connects all three stories they are very different from one another in tone.

The first story, 'No We Love No One', tells of a time when strange children descended upon the Earth, swathed in luminescent shells, the reaction to the infants is largely and disappointedly human as panic set in and many are destroyed, but not all. The story is told from the perspective of our not too pleasant protagonist, a young boy who lives with his father, stepmother Doris and his step brother Silas, whom he takes great delight in mentally torturing. Through his eyes we see the strange children’s arrival, his father’s complete acceptance of one of them, even in the face of social and political pressures. The strange child grows quickly and as it does, the other members of the household slowly start to disappear. In some ways the story reminded me of The Midwich Cuckoos (John Wyndham, 1957) with some parts of the community fearful of the new arrivals whilst others appear to accept them straight away. The story is in part a study in paranoia and part an exploration of the less savoury aspects of human behaviour.

'Bring me the Head of that Little Girl Dorothy' is one of the best fictional descriptions of psychosis I think I have ever read. The story is told from two perspectives, the first is Nikko, head flying monkey in the witches employ, who acts as our guide to the fictional world of Oz. The second perspective is that of Maribel, who lives two lives, the first in our reality the second in Oz. She has through her adolescence learnt to hide the Oz side of her life until one day her fantasy overflows into her reality with tragic consequences. A much darker tale, the reader finds themselves simultaneously sympathetic and horrified with the result of the clash between her fantasy and real world.

The last story, 'The Wizard Will See You Now', is another dark decent into madness, as another young protagonist witnesses the murder of his mother by his father - during which his father stabs him just before he takes his own life. This horrific act sets a sequence of events unfurling with the main character slowly losing his touch with reality.

For such a slim book these three stories back a powerful punch with their imagery and inventiveness these stories are likely to haunt you for some time to come.


Charles Packer

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