Rebecca Lloyd's Oothangbart was published by Pillar International Publishing Ltd. in July 2016.
Information about Rebecca Lloyd:
Winning the 2008 Bristol Short Story Prize for her story 'The River', Rebecca Lloyd, a writer and editor from Bristol, UK, was shortlisted in the 2010 Dundee International Book Prize and was a semi-finalist in the Hudson Prize for a short story collection in the same year. Her novel Halfling was published by Walker Books in 2011, and in the following year she was co-editor with Indira Chandrasekhar, of Pangea, an Anthology of Stories from Around the Globe, with Thames River Press. In 2014, her short story collection Whelp and Other Stories was shortlisted in the Paul Bowles Award for Short Fiction, and her collection The View From Endless Street was published by WiDo Publishing.
Click here to visit her official website.
Information about Oothangbart:
In the beautifully-isolated Oothangbart, order and organisation, hierarchy and custom, and the regular flying of kites ensure that each finely-mapped hour of each planned week are as predictable and reassuring as the last. One Donal Shaun Hercule Poseidon, a citizen of middling rank with no greatness in gait or demeanour, is not so reassured and is becoming less and less predictable. Love is partly to blame. Were it not for his love for the baker, Pearl Offerings, his shed would not be filled with ossified bagels, nor would he be constantly fretting over the unsent love-letter that sat upon his mantelpiece. Nature had its role to play too. Were it not for the leaping fish that emerged unannounced and unexpected from the supposedly-barren river encircling Oothangbart, he might have wandered unnoticed for his entire existence and taken his philosophical questions with him to the grave. Government is definitely to blame. When the fish-panic seized Oothangbart, Donal was dragged into the machinery of government and thrust into an officialdom which had no place for a creature of thought. This is Donal’s story.
A REVIEW OF REBECCA LLOYD'S OOTHANGBART
Rebecca Lloyd's Oothangbart: A subversive fable for adults and bears is a spellbinding literary fantasy novel for readers who want to read something out of the ordinary. I'm delighted to say that this satirical novel is unlike any other novel on the market today, because it's an engaging and insightful story about life, hierarchy, predictability and love in an isolated and totalitarian village.
Oothangbart is anything but a conventional novel, because it has a fable-like and quirky atmosphere that separates it from other modern novels. Readers who are intrigued by fables and novels that have a deeper meaning behind the story will find this novel fascinating and thought-provoking. It makes many of us think about what is happening and why the characters act the way they do.
When I began to read this novel, I found myself wholly captivated by it. It had many layers, clever metaphors and intriguing events that kept me turning pages late into the night. Everything about it felt intriguing, because there were no weak spots. I was fully satisfied with the story and its subtle complexity, because there was a lot of hidden social commentary and wisdom beneath the surface.
It's nearly impossible to find similar kind of novels, but - in my opinion - the closest resemblance to Oothangbart is Winkie by Clifford Chase. Although Winkie is different from this novel, the author has the same kind of unorthodox way of exploring various themes and issues within the context of speculative fiction as Clifford Chase. There's something in this novel that is slightly reminiscent of stories written by Rhys Hughes and Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris, but it also has astute Orwellian elements.
Worldbuilding works well and is refreshingly original, because the events take place in an isolated community called Oothangbart, which feels connected to a wider world, but is detached from it. There's a gate and a way out of town, but no one ever comes to visit Oothangbart and no one leaves it. Everything in Oothangbart is fascinatingly skewed, because it prides itself on having a perfect social structure and a strict hierarchy that is followed and respected by the citizens. Because thinking differently about things is considered to be a threat and can lead to trouble, the citizens have settled into a peaceful and predictable way of life. Some of the citizens have wondered about whether or not Bristol exists outside the borders of the village and beyond the forest, but thinking such thoughts could cause severe problems, so no one ever explores the existence of Bristol. Nothing ever changes in Oothangbart, because everything is predictable and reassuring. Oothangbartians are used to having time measured with such terms as Newtime, Trumpet-time, Fishthoughts, Whittletime, Late-repast, Vespertime, Curfew and Freetime, and their hours are filled with routines.
The characters are interesting and their individual traits and frailties add plenty of fascination to the story. I think that many readers will find the fascinatingly absurd and quirky conversations between the characters charmingly fresh. It was fun to read about how the characters acted in a particular way, because they had always done so and felt no need to change things (they had become used to doing things in a certain way and didn't want to change anything).
The protagonist of this novel is Donal Shaun Hercule Poseidon. He's a citizen of middling rank who is becoming increasingly unpredictable and begins to think about certain things that are not considered to be normal by others. He only expresses his private thoughts to his friend who advises him not to talk about them. He is secretly in love with the baker, Pearl Offering, and his shed is filled with her bagels. He is constantly fretting over an unsent love-letter, because he has not been able to see the Postal Fellow, although he has done his best to catch him. He yearns for validation and is fascinated by Bristol. His life begins to change when leaping fish emerge from the barren river encircling Oothangbart and cause panic among the citizens. As the citizens become frightened by what is happening in the river and fish-panic seizes Oothangbart, Donal suddenly finds himself being thrust into an officialdom.
I enjoyed reading about Donal and his life, because he thought differently about many things than others and had interesting problems. He questioned several things and thought a lot about what is happening in Oothangbart and if there's something outside its limits. He was fascinated with what could be found outside the limits of Oothangbart.
Rebecca Lloyd explores power, rulership, oppression, hierarchy, growth, change and love in a satisfyingly satirical and amusing way. Her approach to these themes and issues feels wonderfully fresh and imaginative, because she has a gift of blending the mundane with the fantastical. She irresistibly combines everyday life and challenging situations with fantastical elements.
I found the author's sense of humour delightfully poignant and witty. Because I like well written humour with a touch of satire, I loved the way the author added bits of humour to the story and created a fable-like atmosphere. Her clever tongue-in-cheek humour is simply wonderful. I think that readers who have participated in workplace meetings or are familiar with what happens in committees and local governments will immensely enjoy this novel, because the story reflects so well what happens in real life that you can't help but be impressed by its parodical and satirical elements. The author writes deftly and comically about how individuals are treated in meetings and how their opinions are met by others.
Rebecca Lloyd's writing style is clear and simple yet sophisticatedly complex. She's one of the most talented authors working on the field of literary speculative fiction, because she can write different kinds of stories and has the ability to alter her writing style to suit the needs of the story. Those who are familiar with her World Fantasy Award-nominated Mercy and Other Stories will find this novel intriguingly different from it.
Oothangbart: A subversive fable for adults and bears is one of the best and most engaging novels available for adult readers who are fascinated by thought-provoking, amusing and unconventional novels. There's much to love and adore in this novel, because it has been written lovingly and told with passion. Please, invest a bit of time into reading this wonderful novel and discover its magic, because it's something unique.