Title: The Bedlam Stacks
Author :Natasha Pulley
Genres: Historical, Magical Realism
Publication Date: 13th July
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Deep in uncharted Peru, the holy town of Bedlam stands at the edge of a forest. Here, statues move and anyone who crosses the border dies. But somewhere inside are cinchona trees, whose bark yields quinine: the only known treatment for malaria.
By 1859, the hunt for a reliable source of quinine is critical and the India Office coerces injured expeditionary Merrick Tremayne into one final mission. Merrick is dispatched to Bedlam and tasked with bringing back cinchona cuttings. But as he travels into hostile territory, he discovers a legacy which will prove more dangerous than he could ever have imagined.I loved this book. Merrick Tremayne, forced to retire from the India office due to a leg injury which has left him unable to walk far. He is living with his brother, temporarily in their dilapidated ancestral Cornish estate Heligan ( I assume the same as the Lost Gardens of Heligan). Then to avoid the prospect of settling to a boring career is given a chance to try and break the Peruvian monopoly on quinine by bringing back cuttings from the Cinchona tree. This opportunity comes in the form of an old friend Clem who Merrick knew from when they where in the military together.
There is also a familial connection with Peru as Merrick’s grandfather spent time there back before Merrick was born, and many of the plants in the garden and greenhouses, and a mysterious statue where brought back from there.
When there they meet a guide and priest Raphael and are guided up to the village of New Bethlehem, also called Bedlam and there the magic really starts. Well it creeps up upon you and before you know it you are seeing the impossible appearing very normal and almost mundane. Including pollen that glows whenever it is moved (think bioluminescent plankton you get in some tropical waters) and statues that move and are assumed to be clockwork. Its a fairly slow read but it is beautifully written, so much so that it is pretty easy to suspend disbelief.I think this book would be enjoyed by anybody who read and enjoyed the Watchmaker of Filigree Street but its not a per-requisite as this book works as a stand alone book. Also if you like a bit of magical realism I think this book may be for you. Don’t expect it to be fast paced though, it is a book to be savored.
Buy/pre-order this book on Wordery
Natasha Pulley is a young writer with a huge potential, she is a well educated young woman having studied English Literature at Oxford University and then a Creative Writing MA at University of East Anglia. At 28 years old, this is her second book, the first being the Watchmaker of Filagree Street which was published in 2015 and was very well received. To be that focused that young, well I wish I was. (I haven’t read the Watchmaker of Filagree Street but I have definitely added that to my TBR.)
She tweets at @natasha_pulley