Michael Marshall Smith gives the familiar subject of marital breakdown a new twist in his novel Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence (review copy from Harper Voyager). The titular Hannah Green is a young girl dealing with the break up of her parents’ marriage. Her mother has left her father for a work colleague, and has moved from the West Coast of the USA to London.
The marriage break up is the unfeasibly mundane part of Hannah’s life. So common a set of experiences and so frequently covered in fiction as to be unremarkable. This is a well-trodden emotional journey for all the participants in it.
Hannah’s family story becomes interwoven with that of the Devil, when she is sent to stay with her grandfather for a while. The Devil is trying to deal with a coup aimed at unseating him, and enlists the assistance of that same grandfather. This allows Marshall Smith to take the domestic story on an abrupt jink to the side. Introducing these supernatural elements lets him explore the family’s crisis in an allegorical manner, focusing on humanity’s ability to cause harm to family and friends. It lacks no less of the emotional punch and impact of a traditional literary fiction treatment of these issues, but is delivered with a wry, sideways smile.
This is a heart-warming book that uses traditional genre tools to tackle a traditional literary fiction topic.
Goodreads rating: 3*