England - a country riddled with corruption, superstition, and sexual depravity. A land divided between a tiny minority of the super-rich and the vast majority of the middling-to-poor. A place where snobbery, hypocrisy, and bigotry hold sway.
Oh, I'm referring to Georgian England. Just in case you were wondering,
In this novella from Seven Strange Stories Rebecca Lloyd sets herself the difficult task of recreating an 18th century Gothic story with a modern sensibility. She avoids the obvious pitfalls of having overly-modern language and characters, but also steers clear of using too many period expressions (aka 'tushery'). As a result 'The Monster Orgorp' is almost an object lesson in how to do period fiction without making a twit, or a bore, of yourself.
The story begins with a simple country girl, Caroline Wilson, who goes into domestic service at the very dysfunctional (and of course manorial) home of Lord Mallet. Lady Mallet is estranged from the bloated debauchee she married. While he gambles, drinks, and whores far into the night, her ladyship seems to be preoccupied with more arcane matters in her wing of the house. Rumour has it among the servants that the lady is a witch. The arrival of a mysterious shrouded figure that stinks as it glides through the house sends speculation soaring - surely the Thing (as Caroline calls it) must be a familiar?
Caroline wins the favour of Lady Mallet (and, by default, the envy of the other female servants) and slowly becomes privy to more information about the Thing. There is a real Horace Walpole feel about the passages during which the foul-smelling, stunted being wafts around the great house. Then comes a plot twist that no contemporary author would have dared handle so explicitly. This leads to a revelation that shows where the truly monstrous lies.
This novella is another satisfying read, but I was slightly baffled by the title, as there seems no real reason for Caroline to dub the thing Orgorp. I tried to figure out if there was a hidden meaning, but got nothing - or is 'Progro' a pop at Rick Wakeman? Perhaps I'm just too dim, or it could be an in-joke. It was also slightly baffled by a rather long passage* on anal sex, which seemed to labour the point. I mean, we know what it is and what it can symbolise.
Nearly completed my running review! Stay tuned for the last bit.
*yes I did write 'passage' without thinking, but I'm leaving it in so there.