I began my review of The Bell Chime with the words “I’m a snob,” and went on to wax lyrical on the reasons why my usual literary snobbery and compulsive internal need to mentally correct throughout the reading of a book happily were not triggered in reading Mona’s first work.
I’m happy to announce that said snobbery still was not triggered when it came to her follow-up novel, Vanilla.
As with The Bell Chime, an avalanche of praise has been roaring forth since its release in March. As you’ve probably guessed, I feel that praise is worthy indeed.
Vanilla, Mona’s first full length novel, struck me as some mad amalgamation between Room by Emma Donoghue, I Am Legend, and Let the Right One In. Except the book isn’t completely ‘mad’; it exhibits what I perceive as Mona’s trademark care, craft, and deliberation, with a resounding sense that every sentence has been fretted over and reshaped like clay until she was confident it could be no better. This is a trait I admire very much in a writer, and it was a joy to read the resulting poetry seeping from each and every passage.
That’s not to say that there isn’t madness lurking within. I’m hesitant to even reveal the specific horror archetype with which Mona plays in this novel, since I knew nothing of the story when I went in. I advise you to do the same: allow yourself to sink into Mona’s dreamy prose and into the story. Skilful time-jumps, individual characters that coax from you both sympathy and dread, a superbly original concept, and some bloody brutal kill sequences that would make Dario Argento squirm.
There’s a little girl in a concrete room waiting for you, hoping you’ll join her on a journey that not only called to my mind some of my favourite novels in the genre, but also painted a completely fresh picture the likes of which I’ve never encountered.
Believe the hype. Take that little girl’s hand and join her for the horrors to come.