Sometimes you are lucky enough to read exactly the right book at the right time. This was the case with "The Night Brother" and me. It was the perfect piece of fiction to read after "Caliban and the Witch". While the beautiful prose and rich characters would have been enjoyable at any time, the poignancy of the subtext was enriched when read with knowledge of the history of women's struggles.
It is set in the late 19th - early 20th century, Manchester, England. A time of suffragists and a blossoming underground queer culture, both of which were violently opposed by state and police. Set in this time, place and atmosphere is the story of Edie and Gnome. The first chapter shows them in perfect, natural harmony with each other. But as Edie grows up her intersex nature (given a gloriously magical bent by Garland) is repressed and made a cause of shame by the abuse by their mother. Without full expression and acceptance, Edie/Gnome's relationship becomes destructive and toxic. This journey of acceptance and balance is woven into a wider narrative about feminine roles in society and the struggle to transcend them.
It is a dazzling book, bleak at times, uplifting at others. It does not shy away from women's struggles or the resistance to them by reactive traditional figures. It is a lover's kiss of a book, communicating deep and hidden truths while giving intense pleasure. It is among my favourite reads of all time.