Firstly, we would like to thank Feminist Press for sending this fantastic new text to us; it went straight to the top of our summer reading list!
Cristina Rivera Garza’s text The Iliac Crest, which will be released in October 2017, is a novella that fits into the Gothic genre, and explorations of women within the Gothic trope, perfectly. As Feminist Press describes it, the text is a ‘gothic exploration of sex, sickness and transgression whose characters subvert our expectations of gender binary’.
The text, translated from its original Spanish, explores the gender norms we normally associate within the Gothic genre and wider society by making the gender identity of the narrator key to the narrative throughout. The reader is never really sure whether the anonymous narrator is male or female until the very end, and it is still questionable at the close of the novella. As with much of the plot of The Iliac Crest, nothing is clear cut and is designed to unsettle the reader as they become immersed in this mysterious text.
When reading The Iliac Crest, both Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Christabel’ and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, with its atmospheric setting that leads the reader on a dark and twisted journey through this world. Insanity is a key theme in the text, as it centres around a doctor in a mental health facility and their descent into madness due to their paranoia that their secret will be revealed.
Anonymity is key to the text’s ambiguity, as only character is identified by a name: Amparo Dávila. The narrator chooses identities for the other characters, such as their former lover (The Betrayed) and the True One. The anonymity of the characters adds to their intrigue; it is clear that these pseudonyms have been chosen intentionally to identify their involvement in the doctor’s life without risking revealing their real name to the reader. Indeed, even Amparo Dávila’s identity is unclear, as two women identify as her, with one of them admitting that she is in actual fact dead.
In summary, The Iliac Crest is a fascinating text that intrigues the reader from start to finish. No secret held within its pages is ever fully resolved, leaving the reader wanting more. We look forward to seeing it hit the shelves along with many more novels from Cristina Rivera Garza.