Jane Rusbridge Author of The Devils Music and Rook

Cornflower

Wild Knot Cornflower Review

There is a great deal of good writing and expert story-telling meshed together in Jane Rusbridge’s novel The Devil’s Music. Set partly in the present and partly in the late 1950s, its detail is impeccable, and every particular of a scene is realised to what becomes – deliberately, I feel – an almost stifling extent. That’s not a criticism, because it’s a tense and intense book and the minutiae help make it so. If at times the reader feels they need a breath of air, that’s to the writer’s credit – she’s done her job.
The story revolves around Andy, a loner, a wanderer, returning ‘home’ after many years away trying to escape the tragic events of his earlier life. Now his father has died and his sister has summoned him back for there are strands from the past which have never been neatly tied up and finished off. As a boy, Andy was obsessed with knots and ropes – he was taught by his rope-maker grandfather – and even now, he retreats into the world of knots when real life threatens to unravel, for “knots keep treasures safe”. Andy has lost a lot, but memories are not always reliable, as he’ll find out when the knot of guilt he has carried with him all these years is finally untied.
I loved the 1950s scenes, the intricate construction of the family story at the book’s heart, the ‘knot work’, too. There are some stylistic quirks which didn’t sit well with me (but that’s a very personal reaction) and there are aspects of the present day story which I felt were a touch over-egged, but where it impresses most is in the way it shows how a child thinks – the touchstones, the surreal associations, the delight in words as new and shiny playthings, the misinterpretations of the adult world. It is a very strong book indeed and I shall certainly look forward to more from Jane Rusbridge.