Dissolution - Stuart Granville is a would-be medical student from the South who's been expelled for drinking and believes he's heading North to Hyde Park, New York to tutor twin girls. Instead, he discovers that his charges, Abby and Eleanor, have never been to school of any kind. They are also Siamese twins and their father, a doctor with grandiose dreams, means to separate them surgically. He intends to take advantage of Stuart's expertise and vulnerability; but unbeknown to both men, the supernatural force in the house has an agenda - and a will - of it's own.
This novella is stunning. Mannetti calls forth so many different, beautiful images through her air tight descriptions, but also manages to hit on every single nerve in the reader's psyche. There are points in this novella that are just so gut-wrenching and brutal, that one has no other option but to feel them with their whole being. Like I said, this book contains some of the most beautiful prose I've read in a while. Mannetti certainly has a gift for the dramatic.
The author's lyrical power doesn't only lie in her ability to evoke sadness in the reader, but also in her erotic descriptions. In both novellas, Mannetti proves that she can make some of the most disturbing, and taboo instances seem strangely alluring and...well...sexy. It's not entirely in the content either, but - more importantly - in how she describes the emotions of those things/people surrounding the situations.
In contrast, the author's ability to write creepy moments tends to sidle right up next to the sexy moments, sending your heart all a-flutter one moment, and then a shiver up your spine the next.
The Sheila Na Gig - Tom Smith is on a ship in steerage and bound for New York from his native Ireland after facing down the constraints imposed by his family, overcoming the loss of his first love, circumventing his grandmother's wiles and occult knowledge, and trying to save his younger, mentally challenged sister, Delia, from both witchcraft and sexual abuse.
Now this novella, I found genuinely disturbing. Disturbing in a good way, I might add. It all starts off very innocently, then quickly and abruptly shows itself to be something that you weren't expecting at all. After reading Dissolution, you're ready for the fact that Mannetti carries her words like weapons, and isn't afraid to use them. She will cut you deep, and do so powerfully. But this novella shows a different side of her abilities. A beautiful, caring, yet unrepentantly brutal side, bent on telling a wicked yarn from - what feels like - way back when.
This novella has modern classic written all over it. It's perfect, poignant, emotionally charged, and incredibly well done.
This story is bookended by present tense perspective, with a middle filling of past tense storytelling for the meatiness. And what a meatiness there is! Mannetti has created incredible characters spanning the entire spectrum of human nature - i.e: The good natured young boy and his love interest, the abusive father, the doting female character, the rigid mother, the innocent youth, the crazy and mysterious grandmother...they're all here - and Mannetti uses them in the most incredible ways. It's like these character models were made specifically for her personal creative needs.
In both novellas Mannetti proves that she has a very strong power over her reader with her words. She retains a very emotional, very dramatic grip on here audience while never stepping into the melodramatic and/or unbelievable. In the end, you're left with your jaw scraping the floor, partially drowned in tears - but thankful that you had the chance to read something so moving.
Gore-hounds need not be dismayed by all of the emotion either, as Mannetti can throw down some severely nasty scenes replete with some seriously gruesome detail. I'd say she'd be able to hold strong with the likes of Edward Lee and Wrath James White, any day.
If you miss out on Deathwatch, you're surely missing out on something special. This is an absolutely incredible read that will leave to breathless. It's haunting, erotic, sometimes grotesque, and heart-wrenchingly sad. You won't walk away from this one the same, that's for sure.
You can find out more about Lisa Mannetti at her website, on Facebook, and buy Deathwatch (in ebook version) here. Lisa Mannetti is the 2008 Bram Stoker award winner for her first novel The Gentling Box. Check it out here, and keep an eye out for a review here soon.