• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Elizabeth Reeder: Fremont (Kohl)

The first book to emerge from new Glasgow-based publisher Kohl, Fremont is also the second novel by Elizabeth Reeder, whose debut, Ramshackle, appeared only a few months ago.

But where Ramshackle was a naturalistic tale of a 15-year-old girl coping with the disappearance of her father, Fremont is a very different beast, set in a place which looks very much like modern America but also taking on some of the qualities of a fable.

When Hal Fremont and Rachel Roanoke meet in a diner, each knows what the other wants: to start a family. They marry the next day and head back to Hal's antebellum mansion to start producing children. Hal, however, wants only sons, and Rachel has a talent for bringing forth girls. They have 13 children eventually, all with very distinct characters, but only one son. Hal, obsessed with imposing his will on the world by building houses and having a son to inherit his business, has trouble even remembering his daughters' names.

These are important. All their children are named after states, Hal attaching state-shaped plaques to a mural of the USA after each birth. The idea for the mural came to Rachel in a vision, and her preoccupation with maps is like her desire for a family.

An idealised version of the territory they represent, maps allow us to experience an idea of the territory without having to negotiate the awkward reality of it. And so it is with Hal and Rachel, who have to adjust to the reality of their family in their separate ways.

While the dysfunctional Fremont family have real-life issues to deal with – infidelity, tragedy, prejudice from the local community – there's a dreamlike logic at work too. With flashbacks to Rachel's mother being expelled from her island community for giving birth to a girl, and the crumbling mansion which looms so large over the story, there's a thematically rich subtext working away under the surface, leaving tantalising but mysterious traces on the narrative.

Reeder, who is from Chicago originally but has been based in Scotland for the last 15 years, balances the various levels of her story with surprising effectiveness, while consistently engaging the emotions too.

Elizabeth Reeder

Kohl, £8.99

FREMONT

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

124758