Book Review - Biting Tongues
Biting Tongues by TP Bragg. Black Cat Distribution, Edinburgh. 240 pages. Paperback. ISBN: 1-4116- 5250-9 £10.00.
JACKIE has been imprisoned in an old air-raid shelter for seven years and seven months. The novel begins with Jackie’s diary extracts written from within a mental hospital. The novel investigates Jack’s ‘dream-time’, which he learnt to enter in ‘the dark’ as he terms, it.
‘Dream-time’ is about the transformation of thoughts into words and words into ‘reality’. This is mirrored by his obsession with books in the hospital and in this sense, the novel explores the relationship between reality and fiction (and to creative act) – plus the redemptive power of fiction. In the dark, Jack had to learn to survive.
The main themes are: love; time; the nature of sanity/insanity; freedom and imprisonment; redemption; power. The main sub-plot of the novel deals with how and why Jack is imprisoned. Against all the anguish of the past there is a movement of optimism and for all the bitterness and darkness in this novel there is also a powerful sense of love and hope.
It is Jack’s imprisonment and the strange world of twilight reality enmeshed with dream-time fiction that gives the whole novel its peculiar feeling and narrative direction.
Biting Tongues conjures the experience of those who have dwelt in another world within our world – an ‘oubliette’ – and who, when they are released back into ‘reality’, are looked to for insight and wisdom. It is as if their suffering and isolation can give us the answers we seek to the meaning of our collective (and relatively safe) existence.