Book review: Saskia’s Skeleton, by Lily Markova
All of Lily Markova’s books have exquisite tragedy and depth and all of them explore issues of mortality in an intangible sort of way, the flight of the soul and transience of life, but this is the first one written with an age range of ten to late teenage in mind. That doesn’t mean the voice or plot are simple or the narrator talks down to the readers, far from it, it’s just an example of Lilly’s beautiful elfin style captured in the elegant petals of a new folklore.
This is Tim Burtonesque, at the very least. A much better story than Frankenweenie or The Corpse Bride, yet equally artfully disturbing as Saskia screams those wistfully sad and gorgeously coloured characteristics that seem to define Burton’s puppetry genre. Youngsters love this stuff, big eyes and a chorus of bones, wisps of solitude, scampering pets with ticking hearts and all the time phasing, breathing the air between two realities. It’s the old musing that there are places in our world where you can break through, where the interface is at its thinnest and the pure of heart can slip across. The lucky, the blessed and those too young to know better can find such places, when the rest of us ignore the possibility. There are those who believe they can pass — but it is their minds alone that have gone over the edge. Can they tell the difference? Can you, from the facts they’ve gathered? The pure iron nails of reality feel uncomfortable in the human brain too.
It’s like this story has always been around, waiting for someone to pick it up and read it. A sword in a stone, wreathed in trails of ivy and patience. As with all the most intriguing folklore, this exists in the boundaries of what’s real and what isn’t. Even at the end, who can say whether the world this girl walks through is a genuine alternative reality, a ragged breach between her childhood places and another world, or a distortion of a worrying situation in the real world that’s conveyed through the loose perception and faulty understanding of a child; the only symptom that’s real in her mother’s mental pictorial cabinet of marvels.
She loves her though, a bird in a ribcage.
“Proper people” believe Saskia’s mother does not have the capacity to care for her. “Proper people” want to extract Saskia and pull the pseudo-reality she loves apart. “Proper people” believe in painful and occasionally effective lightning treatment and are cruel to be ki… no, no they’re not, they’re just cruel really. Screw them. I’m on Saskia’s side. You need to read this. It strikes at the heart and it’s a hell of an imaginary tale. In the guise of a cat’s cradle, this story chimes along quite unlike something newly written, more like something that’s always been there, only we’d forgotten.