Spectral Books is well known for it’s commitment to the novella form - a commitment that sees it releasing several books a year in this format. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Mark Morris’s Albion Fay at Edge Lit
Albion Fay is a quiet, understated stunner of a book. The story takes place across several time periods - a tricky device to use at the best of times, one fraught with potential confusion for the reader. Morris navigates this with confidence and ease. He seems to have an instinctive grasp of how to frame a scene such that the reader is immediately clear about which period of the story is being referred to.
The narrative itself is emotionally dense but again easy to follow. I never felt like Morris was rushing the story, but at the same time it was compulsively readable. At it’s heart, this is a book about a family on the edge of disintegration, told from a childs perspective. As such, it’s frequently deeply uncomfortable reading, especially as things escalate. Nothing here is gratuitous or puerile - in fact the subject matter, real life horror, is handled with genuine care and delicacy - but Morris covers some very dark territory with this one. The delicacy of the prose serves that purpose well, often lulling you past the point of no return, realising too late just how unpleasant a turn events have taken.
In fact, the prose throughout is calm, understated, literary without an ounce of pretension. This is deliberate, skillful writing, carefully written and yet pleasingly flowing to read. Morris clearly has a superb grasp of language, and chooses his protagonist well as a narrator that can plausibly be as articulate, but again, there is simply not an ounce of fat on the page. Every word serves a purpose.
This was my first exposure to the work of Mark Morris, but I cannot imagine it will be the last. In Albion Fay he has produced a quintessentially English horror novella - polite, understated, yet quietly devastating - of quite exceptional quality. If the thought of unpretentious, literary, and deeply grounded horror appeals to you, I really can’t recommend this one highly enough.
PS - A word on the introduction by Adam Nevill. It’s actually more of an extended essay, and a superb piece of writing in it’s own right. However, whilst it contains no spoilers, the level of detail contained means you may actually enjoy it more if you read it after you’ve finished the novella.