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REVIEW: An Invitation To Darkness by Hailey Piper


Hailey Piper loves language. This much is clear even from the opening pages of An Invitation To Darkness. It’s an almost-period piece, high Gothic, and written in the first person - and both period and perspective are reflected in the rhythms of the prose, the polysyllabic descriptors and formal, consciously-stiff speech.  But Gothic lit prose, both historical and contemporary, can too easily become purple prose - and AITD, to its credit, never does. In fact, at a purely linguistic level, it’s a joy to read, from beginning to end - the ebb and flow of Piper’s language begging to be read aloud as it pulls together the strange strands of the narrative.


It’s also a fundamentally queer book - and, delightfully (for this lesbian, at least) offers neither an explanation for its queerness nor centres any homophobia this queerness might have engendered in the real-world historical period it connotes. It’s a story about queers, romantically-involved queers no less, and the (very strange, deeply unsettling) things that happen to them - but it’s no more a story about queerness than Dracula is a paean to married heterosexuality. 


I’m planning to work my way through Piper’s back-catalogue, so this will likely not be the last of her stories I review here. But it’s a fabulous start to the show.

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