Who was Changed and Who Was Dead, Barbara Comyns ( pb, Jan 2021)
This is the story of the Willoweed family and the English village in which they live. It begins mid-flood, ducks swimming in the drawing-room windows, “quacking their approval” as they sail around the room. “What about my rose beds?” demands Grandmother Willoweed. Her son shouts down her ear-trumpet that the garden is submerged, dead animals everywhere, she will be lucky to get a bunch. Then the miller drowns himself . . . then the butcher slits his throat . . . and a series of gruesome deaths plagues the villagers. The newspaper asks, “Who will be smitten by this fatal madness next?” Through it all, Comyns’ unique voice weaves a narrative as wonderful as it is horrible, as beautiful as it is cruel.
Originally published in England in 1954, this “overlooked small masterpiece” is a twisted, tragicomic gem.