The Knife Drawer by Padrika Tarrant - review by Elspeth Barker

Elspeth Barker

The Cutlery Strikes Back

The Knife Drawer


Salt Publishing 362pp £11.99 order from our bookshop

An old stone house stands in its garden, beside a cherry tree. The tree is full of birds, but when the great Mother Owl sweeps by, they flee or crouch motionless and silent on the ground. Beneath this ground, in a pit, a small child lives. She has been there for years, sustained by food and water passed down to her through a wide tube. She is exactly half the size of her twin sister, Marie, who lives in the house with their frizz-haired mother and a multitude of mice. Sealed into the dining room, plangent and angry, knives, forks, scissors and spoons await their chance for action. The mother claims that this room does not exist. She has painted its door with prodigious layers of Boots Concealer No 12. Yet she can hear the cutlery wail and sing, ‘thinly as tinfoil’, hungry for carrion. Now and then she hurls in the bodies of trapped mice and she hears the snip and click of eager blades. There is a Christmas tree in the dining room, sparkling with everlasting fairy lights. A dark stain on the floorboards is all that remains of a dead husband, briefly father to the twins.

Despite the cutlery’s murderous bids for dominance, the mice, by their goodness and their simplicity, drive the narrative on through much genesis, exodus, mourning, revolution, and even atonement. There are no concessions in this very dark fairytale. The mice mount a voodoo campaign against the deranged mother, for she has

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