My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Interior Life is another book I’d heard about from Jo Walton’s What Makes This Book So Great. My best friend was also intrigued by Walton’s summary of the novel & luckily came across two copies at a used bookstore! Happy day!
Blake’s story begins with Sue, a housewife, struggling to bring some order to her day & daydreaming in order to keep her mind off of the housework drudgery. But as days go by, Sue’s fantasy of Lady Amalia & her maidservant Marianella becomes a full-fledged world peopled with varied characters. Amalia Greywell, a highborn lady with Sight, tries to solve her brother’s Andri disappearance & stumbles upon clues that lead to the insidious Shadow growing over the land. As Amalia searches & encounters others in her world, Sue develops outside interests & becomes more involved in her community–on her own quest for a life that pleases her. The two stories intertwine & affect one another as the story unfolds.
One way I could describe this story is The Neverending Story for adults. Learning about Amalia’s circumstances only deepens Sue’s understanding of her own world & how to act within it. Interior Life states that not only is a fantasy a healthy exercise of the mind, it can also be a compass pointing to one’s true self. Unlike many similar books that eventually require the protagonist to put aside their imaginings, Blake’s story illustrates how the two “realities” can live together. Like Neverending Story, the characters of Interior Life live beyond its pages. Life can also be a challenge to explain: a straightforward telling of Sue’s & Amalia’s stories can seem like common or cliched versions of domestic or high-fantasy novels. The novel’s magic lies in the interesting twinings & echoes between the two characters & the adult decisions they make.
If you are curious, I would repeat Walton’s advice and tell you that the book is currently out-of-print & if you can find a copy, snatch it up! Readers are in for an memorable read.