Book Review: Phantom Feast Diana Baron
Posted by Dianna Gunn
There’s a quite interesting story behind how I found this book. Diana Barron is a local (she’s definitely Canadian, maybe not the same city but I think the same province) horror writer. In Toronto we have a literacy festival called Word on the Street every year. I don’t always make it but I try to.
Two years ago I was there with my grandmother, and we ran into a good friend of mine. We were looking at the various horrors on the tables, and just happened to see this one. Diana Barron was there, signing books. My friend thought it would be pretty epic if I had a novel signed ‘To Dianna from Diana’ and bought me the book. We got her to sign it, and it is one of my autographed books-Newes from the Dead is as well-a collection I hope to build over the years.
I finally got around to reading it, having been delayed and distracted by a number of things throughout the last two years, and finished it while I was at the cottage.
This is a good book, to be sure. The beginning is a bit much, and there is a bit of purple prose and over-description, but the blood and guts are cool and the concept is rather awesome.
For you see, the concept revolves around an odd family. There is Erin, a woman so large that she can’t even stand up anymore, and the twins, her older sister and brother, who are both dwarfs (it’s a medical condition). The twins live in a strange little cottage, many things about it which I’m not going to spoil here.
Then you have Mickey and Isolde. Mickey is a dwarf, who was abandoned by his father and later his mother, who were runaways in the sixties, hitchhiking from Toronto to San Francisco. One thing I like about this book is that it isn’t afraid to be quite honest that ‘Flower’ and ‘Cool’, Mickey’s parents, did a lot of drugs.
One of my favourite lines in the entire book is something about how Flower didn’t realize at first that her son, Mickey, was a dwarf because the self-proclaimed midwife was just as stoned as she was at the time of birth.
Mickey lived in an orphanage for years and then became one of the fringe people, living on the streets, taking advantage of soup kitchens and shelters and all manner of resources for the homeless. Then Erin saved him from some teenagers and a dog-Mickey always had a paralyzing fear of dogs-and he became family, somewhat like a servant in that he did everything for Erin in return for room and board, but more like family in that he was trusted with the secret Erin and the twins share.
Mickey found Isolde at a bus stop one day. Isolde was never wanted by her foster parents, but found a place in the family because she knew how to cook. She was never taught, she just sort of learned, knew how to cook instinctively, knew what would work and what wouldn’t, and after she made her first good meal her foster mother taught her various recipes. Mickey brought Isolde home, she became the cook, and the two fell in love.
And then there’s the last addition to the family, Beau. Beau is a nasty fellow. He’s a dwarf too, and became part of the group by accidentally-on-purpose running into Mickey in a grocery store. Mickey identified with him at once, always latching onto people he found who were like him, and brought him home. He later grew to not like Beau very much, realizing the guy was a nutball and a jerk.
This is the eclectic family. They live in a small town. Erin is one of those phone-sex girls, and makes a lot of money, as well as having inherited a lump sum. They all live together, each one serving their own purpose within the family. Isolde doesn’t really know about it, but the family has a secret. Erin, the twins and Beau have a secret, and Mickey just sort of knows. Isolde knows some things-she can’t miss what type of meat Erin and Beau seem to have developed a taste for, being the cook-but she is blissfully oblivious for a large chunk of the book.
The family has a secret.
The secret is eating the townspeople.
It’s a good book, not the best writing I’ve ever seen but it gets a lot better at the end, and the end is quite beautifully written. Definitely worth reading.
Diana Barron’s website can be found here:
<a href=http://www.dianabarron.com/]Diana Barron's Dungeon
And the book can be bought here: