The Coiled Serpent

The Coiled Serpent


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Gabi's Review

Reading this short story collection by one of Granta's Best Young British Writers, Camilla Grudova transports you to a liminal space where the everyday becomes phantasmagorical in a subtle transition to the visceral and repugnant. Commonplace English establishments like the boarding school, the local swimming baths, factories, and museums are rendered in all their familiar aspects alongside the macabre and grotesque, in order to satirise elements we take for granted.
The stories offer compelling accounts of deplorable living conditions, struggling artists, banal foodstuffs, a general sense of decay and exploitation. Grudova's vibrant comparisons are invariably shocking, yet also humorous and refreshingly irreverent.

The satiric title story 'The Coiled Serpent' mocks the obsessions of 'tech bros' in a share house; 3 men who ramp up their exercise regimen and embark on a sexual purification  practice.  The hilarious result is a retention of their semen, causing them to explode.  The story 'Avalon' similarly takes to extremes the increasingly unreasonable demands by employers on their workers by expecting them to perform extra-curricular sexual acts on their clients. In the story 'Ivor' set in an elite boarding school where Grudova satirises  the pointless hierarchical rituals and conditions that ultimately serve to infantalise the boys so that they never leave, metaphorically and physically.

Among the boiled peas, eggs and cabbage smells, the ordinary invariably evolves into the fantastical in a consistently matter of fact tone. Not for the squeamish, these stories are so startlingly original and well written that I can recommend them to anyone looking for writing that dares to challenge the absurdities of what we consider normal. 

Publishers Reviews

An arresting, discomforting collection from 'one of Britain's best young short story writers' (The Telegraph) that revels in the rotten and festers in the imagination.