Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Erinna Mettler's Starlings Revisited

Several months ago at a Liars League event in London, I won a review copy of Erinna Mettler's Starlings. This novel is a set of craftily interwoven stories taking place in Brighton, each chapter following a character. I found it a compelling read--I finished it in two or three days, largely because I enjoyed it and wanted to see what happened next.

I especially enjoyed that the author took risks--narrating one incident from two points of view, and presenting one chapter as a manuscript of a short story, and we're not sure whether we should view this particular chapter in the story as a "real" and thinly veiled account of something which happened to her, or if it is an original work of fiction by the character in the chapter. Fiction within fiction, or a clever new narrative device. In addition to the cleverness of the narrative, and the intricacy of the plot, the characters in this set of stories are well-developed and masterfully depicted.

Mettler is a VERY talented new writer.

The publisher is Revenge Ink. I noted that my review copy was full of typographical errors--numerous instances of hard returns improperly dissecting paragraphs, quotation marks turned the wrong way, and several other errors, which were more than a little distracting. The author informed me that the copy I have is merely a review copy and that these were cleaned up in the final printing. How times have changed for the publishing industry! Twenty years ago, I worked as a proofreader for a small press, and if we had printed a review copy with a quarter of that number of typos, I'd have been fired immediately. I was holding off posting my review until I'd seen the proper printed version of Mettler's Starlings, so that I could verify her claim. Which leads me to problem number 2: Whenever I happen to walk into Daunt or Waterstones or Foyle's or even the public library, I've checked to see if they have a copy of the book, so I can compare it to the review copy, but I've not seen the book anywhere. Which leads me to lament Revenge Ink's distributive capabilities. I hope with her next novel, Mettler signs on with a proper publisher which will give her the editorial attention and the distribution she very richly deserves. I'd truly hate to see this gem of a book linger in obscurity. Mettler is too good a writer to remain unknown and unread.