It is not the skull beneath the skin but the sinewy, pulsing vital organs beneath that which obsess James Sorel-Cameron’s lurid imagination. His characters are still coated in primeval slime, and have not yet sloughed off their baser natures. They are all blood, guts and reflex action.
The storyline of this somewhat melodramatic historical novel is straightforward enough. Set in the unspecified past, on the outskirts of a small English town, it tells of the development, from birth to marriage, of one despised, unwanted mute, christened The Hedgehog because of her spinal deformity. She is born, the fifteenth cursed child, to Mully, sexually rapacious mistress of the Three Star Inn, whose children have all been fathered by different men, not one her husband’s offspring.
Mully’s sons are Machiavellian and violent. They tease their particularly stupid and listless sisters who are suspended in semi-prisoner state in their own house (precisely why, we are never told), functioning as sexual diversions for them.
The Hedgehog lives out her early years scavenging for food and affection around and about