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Review: The Meat Tree, Gwyneth Lewis

the meat treeAnother retelling of a Mabinogion story, The Meat Tree starts off with two people in space, exploring an abandoned ship. There were meant to be three people on it, but none yet exist. Communicating entirely through their minds, the two navigators discover a virtual reality system with a place for three people – outdated technology to them, but worth exploring to see if they can find out what happened to the ship’s inhabitants. They find themselves transplanted back to medieval Wales, where they proceed to re-enact a tale of old and struggle to maintain themselves in the face of these new characters.

This was such an interesting approach to a retelling of a medieval Welsh story! When the book opened with two people out in space, one teaching the other to use her mind to communicate, I had no idea how it was going to relate to the actual story the author was retelling. Using virtual reality to tell the tale was fascinating and a very clever approach. For a while there I had no idea how Lewis was going to work in an actual retelling. I love the idea of using predictions for the future to shed light on the past like this – and loved even more that the story still retained a very human feel. Despite living in the future, these are people like us, and the characters they play are also, surprisingly, people, despite the myths swelling up around them.

Amusingly, the part I didn’t like about the story was the myth itself. I’ll confess to never having read the original, despite having heard it bandied about (it’s the one about Math with the quarrelling brothers). I was surprised, although I shouldn’t have been, at the bestiality of the tale, and I found the descriptions somewhat disturbing. While I can’t really hold this against the modern author, the fact remains that I didn’t really like it.

Overall, though, this was quite an interesting retelling, done in an interesting way. It’s completely different from the last I read, The Dreams of Max and Ronnie, and so far I remain fascinated with these modern interpretations of centuries-old stories. I’m looking forward to reading more of them as they are published, and the ones before the two that I’ve read.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free for review from a publicist.

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