In Coldiron’s (After Gardens, 2019) haunting novella, inspired by the Florence + the Machine album of the same name, two young women struggle to accept their lost love after death tears them apart.
Two months before their graduation from The Cartwright School for Young Ladies, Amelia and Corisande, a young couple, take a boat out on the lake—their quiet spot to “scream or laugh…be alone together, to pretend no one else had ever seen [them].” But when Corisande jumps into the freezing water, dives to the bottom, and drowns, Amelia is left to face the world alone: “The wind swept through the Cartwright School and scattered us, leaves, across the sky. I went to a city and…found a room to sleep in, floorboards where I planted memories of you.” Coldiron’s language, which dances between poetry and prose, retains the soul of its source material while evoking the fragmentary nature of a young life in mourning. Her imagery, meanwhile, conjures a sensuous, gothic atmosphere—one as haunting and ubiquitous for the reader as Corisande’s ghost is in Amelia’s life. Most powerful, perhaps, is Coldiron’s ability to capture Amelia’s yearning for the physical touch of a body that is no more: “And there you are...your skin rosy as a peach…I crawl and I clutch at your calves and I crack open my heart to howl at the tree that curves over the gravestones, you, glimmering, the thing in my arms a flat stone carved with your name, Corisande.” This story, however, is not only Amelia’s, and chapters narrated by Corisande convey her own desperation to bridge the gap between the world of bodies and that of spirits. While not every reader will instantly take to Coldiron’s heightened language—it is sometimes difficult to settle into the dreamscape—the emotions of this passionate love story always feel sincere.
A gothic novella that captures the sensuality of both love and grief.