Rainsford has a pacy, invigorating style and retains determined control of her material, despite some glitches (the multiple narrative voices can sometimes appear too undifferentiated). Imagery is what makes this book sing, and it is taut and sleek, never overdone: Anna’s special hawk, one of several beautifully realised affinities the twins have with the natural world, is a “shapely, vicious bird”; she and Adam move stealthily throughout the “fresh night, still and viscous”. Obvious comparisons with Nathaniel Hawthorne, Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood abound, in a novel that is as much about the impossibility of innocence as it is about corruption and authoritarianism.
Using multiple viewpoint narrators and time shifts, Rainsford returns to images of redness, symbolic of blood, disease, fear, even womanhood. The writing is dauntingly elliptical, the atmosphere of the novel charged with doom. Uneasy reading for uneasy times.
Sue Rainsford’s second novel has chilling topical resonance in its depiction of a dystopian future in which the world, wracked by climate change, heads towards its end. Yet its protagonists, twins Anna and Adam, are menaced by a threat closer to home as they squeeze out existence in an abandoned commune. There are echoes here of Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, andRainsford’s spare, haunting style and willingness to tread into dark and thought-provoking areas make this an accomplished and disturbing read.
As a sort of fable, Redder Days examines the best and worst of our human instincts, and evokes our darkest fears. It asks the philosophical question: what does it mean to be human in a world gripped by fear and change, and how do these forces work on our humanity?
A pertinent, prescient question for our times . . . if you can bear to address it.