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[personal profile] white_hart
Rachel Pollack's Unquenchable Fire is the story of Jennie Mazdan, a divorced woman in her late 20s who lives in Poughkeepsie, New York, and what happens when she unexpectedly finds herself pregnant, incurring the disapproval of the conservative, middle-class community she lives in.

Except it sort of isn't, because it's also a fantasy novel, set in an America 87 years after a religious revolution, when the whole country (maybe the whole world) has become converted to a kind of neopagan spirituality; people make blood offerings, follow a calendar of ritual, believe in the guardian spirits who watch over their homes and businesses, and gather together to hear "Tellers" retelling the stories and parables first told by the Founders. It's a world where miracles and wonders are everyday occurences, where dreams are prophetic and lives are regularly influenced by malignant or benign supernatural beings, but where people also watch TV and eat pizza and live ordinary lives. Although the story of Jennie's pregnancy and her relationships with her ex-husband, her neighbours, her colleagues and her mother are, on one level, absolutely normal and mundane, on the other they're about as far from mundane as you can get; she becomes pregnant via a dream, despite being legally a virgin due to the form the annulment of her marriage took, and it becomes clear very early on that the cild she is carrying is destined to be a prophet and leader, born to restore the magic which has dwindled in the time since the revolution, with too many people seeing their religion as a comforting form rather than real magic.

This is a stunning and unique book. I remember reading a review of it (probably in the Guardian when it was first published in 1989, and thinking it sounded like something I would like to read, but I lived in a small town and didn't have access to either a bookshop or a library with a good SF section, and I forgot about it until a few months ago when I found a copy in a charity shop. I suspect I got more out of it now than I would have done at 14, and I'm really glad to have had the chance to read it at last.

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Date: 2017-08-28 08:35 pm (UTC)
jinty: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jinty
I love Unquenchable Fire and re-read it every so often; there are bits on re-read that I always think don't quite work as they should (can't pinpoint them at this distance though) but it has such a stunning atmosphere and set of ideas running through it.

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