In The Palace Of Repose

In The Palace Of Repose by Holly Phillips

Back of the book: “In the Palace of Repose is a collection of nine such stories, ranging from the delightfully fantastic “In The Palace of Repose,” to the delicately horrific “One of the Hungry Ones,” to the hauntingly literary “The Other Grace.” Here indeed are young women, and young men, who have seen too much, and who have been abandoned to wrestle alone with the strange, the wonderful, the terrifying. Some triumph, some tragically fail. Most struggle on beyond the boundaries of their stories, carrying their wonders and horrors into their lives, into their worlds–worlds, and lives, startlingly like our own.”

This is one of those chapter sales books.  I don’t know what made we want this book.  I guess I figured that since it had multiple stories, that I would be saving myself from buying multiple books.  Unfortunately, they include parts of stories. Many paragraphs are missing to make the stories shorter, but it seems like parts of the story such as the endings are missing as well.  I could be wrong, but it was rather disappointing.
At the beginning of the book we have an introduction from a random person you have never heard of.   You kind of wonder, Who is this person?  Why do I care? And How much did you get paid to write 3 pages about yourself and how much you like someone else’s work..
Next is the story “In the Palace of Repose”   Like I said before, the book is choppy from stars being inserted to separate paragraphs and skip others.  I could almost see myself getting into this story, but was left hanging, and didn’t care enough to want to find the ending. (or have to buy another book just to get the ending)
“The Other Grace”  is about a girl who instantly loses her memory of who she is, while walking down the street.  Her family has a hard time and is always wishing for their daughter to come home, because this new girl is not the daughter they knew.  It was an interesting story, but a disappointing ending to the excerpt.

“The New Ecology”  Robotic organism/trash people.  These creatures follow a girl, and she finds out there are others that are being followed.   In addition to these strange creatures she is also being follows by a nerd.  He is jealous of her and this “magical world” that she gets to be a part of, where as this girl would want nothing more than be out of that world.   P.86 “It’s not an invasion from Fairyland or the Eighth Dimension or whatever you pretend for your little game.  This thing that’s been happening around me since I was a kid…it belongs to this world.  We’ve been trashing the environment for centuries…cutting down forests, putting up farms and cities and dumps…whole ecologies wrecked, hundreds of species gone…In grade ten biology they taught us about evolution, about how species evolve out of other species to fill in the ecological niches… Evolution takes forever, but the new ecology, the urban ecology, has gaps that need to be filled now.”  I suppose an interesting take on how wasteful we are and what will happen in the present or future, but otherwise not the best story.

“A Woman’s Bones”  is basically a story about a dig, where the native peoples are upset over the unearthing of their ancestors.  A young native of a different tribe is the translator and working for the dig, so she has a lot of internal thinking about her past and who she is.  That is about it.

“Pen & Ink”   is about a young girl who goes to a private art school, only to sneak away and break into peoples houses.  She is looking specifically for pieces of artwork for the care taker at her school.  She does work for him in return for information about works of art that her father had done.  The paintings were sold by her mother for money after her father was gone. Don’t have much to say about this one either.

“One of the Hungry Ones” –  A homeless girl is befriended by other supposedly homeless people her age.  She gets caught up in a strange Halloween party scene.  She gets to have a warm bath, drink wine, and have the time of her live.  She never remembers much of it, but always wants to go back.  She doesn’t see her new friends for a few days and is upset by it.  She gets caught  up in the scene again and is abandoned again.  She comes back for more only to find out there is a curse on the mask that she has been wearing, and the curse is in full effect on the third hunt.  One of her new friends tells her about it and she is able to steal the mask and get away, if she were to wear it one last time, she will hunt forever, and the only way for it to end would be for someone to kill her.  At the end of the story she gets away with the mask and is told to burn it and wash the ashes down the drain.  It does not say that she does it or not, and you are left with thinking what her choice was.   Did she do the “right” thing and destroy it? Or did she become of the hungry ones and indulge in more?  If you are homeless and starving, would you have the same morals and thoughts that you do now?

“By The Light of Tomorrows Sun”  Morbidly enough this was my favourite story from this book.  A man comes home, after being gone for a very long time.  His father is found at the bottom of a cliff by the house, hurt but still alive.  While rescuing his father, another man finds a skull, and then the rest of the body.  The leaders of the town are brought together to talk about the remains and the old man.  Throughout the story it refers to his past as well as his present.  He talks about how his family disappeared on a boat and were never found.  His father went crazy and was trying things to make his family come back. Around that time his childhood friend who he has a crush on went missing.  As the story progresses you learn that the old man had killed this young girl as a form of sacrifice.  The man remembers all of this and is revealed to us after his father passes away that night.  At the end of the story there are men who’s ship appears after a long fog speaking in his dead fathers tongue.  He realized that his father did not sacrifice the girl to bring back the family, but to help get him off of the island.  In the end you learn that the man smothered his dying father in his sleep, for what he has done.  P.170 “ The murdered and the murderer went in the ground together, side by side.”

“Summer Ice”  A young art teacher goes to work at a school in a different city, away from her family.  They do not pay well so she has a second job.  The story is about her working as a teacher, a labourer cutting down wild brush in a park, as well as her home with her neighbours.   It goes from past to present and refers to her and her sister a lot.  Her sister is unable to visit, but in the end is finally able to do so.  I didn’t really care for this story, only a single quote from it.  P. 177 “ The city is still greening itself, a slow and noisy process.  Pneumatic drills chatter the cement of Manon’s street, tools in the hands of men and women who seem to revel in the work, the noise, the destruction of what others once laboured to build.”

“Variations On A Theme” was my second favourite story from this book, the others all fall behind.  It goes from a story from 1916 to 2003 about two young girls who have scholarships to a music school.  They have many similarities and are both very talented.  I enjoy the older half of the story for the time period and the way a young man speaks with her.
P.211 “ Fools say much.  The wise listen rather less.”  “Fools. And cowards, who crop pretty birds’ wings because they cannot, themselves, fly.”
p. 212   “…the hunt after memory only chased it deeper into the recesses of her hidden past.”   I was really into this story until the end.

“By the Light of Tomorrows Sun” and “Variations On A Theme”  were my favourite stories from this book.  The rest were not that great.  I had a really hard time getting into this book when I realized it was basically just excerpts from stories.  I was also annoyed by all the stars cutting up all the paragraphs.  In a way, I suppose each of those stars was a little blessing to help make my pain go away faster.  The book is more about the style of writing as opposed to raving about the stories themselves.  Although the style of writing was filled with metaphors and beautiful descriptions, I was hoping for more story.
I do not recommend that you read this book.  However, I would recommend reading “By the Light of Tomorrows Sun.”  I don’t really recommend “Variations on a Theme.”  It was my second favourite and there were nice parts about it, but overall it isn’t really worth the time because of the ending. 

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