Author: Kirsty Logan
Publisher: Harvill Secker
A beautifully crafted tale, Kirsty Logan's The Gracekeepers blends magical realism with a dystopian future. Most of the Earth is underwater and only tiny archipelagos of land remain; society is separated into 'landlockers' who live upon land and 'damplings' who live in boats upon the sea. The two do not mix. The story follows North and Callanish, two women who live very different lives but find that their worlds collide. North is a dampling who performs and lives with her bear upon the travelling circus boat, Excalibur. Callanish is a Gracekeeper living a solitary life far from land, and she is tasked with performing funerals for deceased damplings - an undesirable occupation for a landlocker.As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.
In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland ("landlockers") and those who float on the sea ("damplings"), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives--offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.
I really love Kirsty Logan's writing style, it was very beautiful and full of rich description. I was fully immersed in the magical world of the sea and the story was highly original and hooked me from the first page. I just adored slowly learning about the world and North and Callanish's lives. There are also multiple viewpoints sprinkled throughout in addition to the main characters and I really appreciated the alternate perspectives.
There is a strong theme running throughout this book of gender and sexual fluidity which I felt really suited the whimsical and fairytale tone. The ending was both surprising and abrupt and felt a bit odd to me, and I desperately wanted more of this captivating story. A brilliant read, highly recommend to fans of magical realism and beautiful atmospheric writing.