Slipping into Sophie Mackintosh’s fiction is as comforting as it is disquieting. The tender consideration lavished on her characters, especially the women and girls her novels revolve around, is immediately tangible, and yet their worlds, glimpsed as through a gauzy, fractured filter, quiver with unease ... At times, it all feels like an exhilaratingly wicked game, though the devastating potential for Elodie and the town is clear from start, accentuated throughout by insinuations of violence, even in casual observation ... Destruction is a distinct possibility for the novel’s readers as well, but it’s a real comfort to feel that no matter how much pain Elodie’s vulnerability may cause her, Mackintosh cares for her as much as we do.
A quietly rich maturation of Mackintosh’s skill, set in a semi-rural postwar French town ... This is a book about the power desire and greed exert over reality and memory ... Cursed Bread presents a subtler rendering of how enough desperation behind the words 'I want' can make one ill, and is all the more gripping for it ... Mackintosh has entered a brilliant new stage of writing.
Disconcerting, dreamlike ... Described with linguistic precision and cinematic patience ... A clever investigation into narrative form: how it shapes and propels a story, and its vulnerability in the hands of the person who tells it.
It’s a story that is begging to be turned into a novel ... Sadly, Sophie Mackintosh doesn’t seem up to the task ... She fumbles the material ... The story is too big for her tight focus on Elodie and Violet to do anything but annoy and her world building suffers ... The real-life story will continue to be confusing and obscure enough to draw people in but, personally, if I survived an incident of mass hysteria potentially caused by intentional experimentation by a foreign intelligence agency and all I got in return was a dreamy sapphic romp, I’d be furious. Curious readers might be better served reading the Wikipedia page instead.
The novel is about competing histories, conflicting memories, and how love makes fools of us all ... Can often feel like a novel on drugs — lots of visceral feelings; very few names, places or even objects. But that description overlooks the craft required to create such a mood ... Mackintosh is a skilful stylist, a writer who affords prose the care and attention usually withheld for poetry. Her words invite immediate rereading; her metaphors feel true and fresh.
A mesmerising fable set in the prelude to a real-life chilling historical moment ... Consuming ... There is much to admire on a sentence level and in the author’s ability to immerse the reader in atmospheric other-worldliness. For some, surrendering to the feverish confessional of Elodie will be luxurious. Others may find it suffocating as the narrative thread becomes harder to follow ... There is a conflict in this novel between the realism of the historical event that inspired it and the surrealism of the imaginative tale that it has been fused with. The pre-existing mystery of what happened to the town is such a powerful source of intrigue already that focusing on it through the disorientating lens of Elodie’s fantastical viewpoint feels like a missed opportunity. No doubt Mackintosh intended for this controlled glimpse to offer a specific reading experience that amplified the strangeness of the source material into even more spectacular musings. As it stands, however, the reality and the speculative make for at times uncomfortable bedfellows where the rules of engagement are not always clear ... Nonetheless, this short novel has an embarrassment of riches in terms of style, decadence and graceful flair. One to be read for its literary credentials more so than its storytelling, this novel still has charm enough to be compelling.
With Cursed Bread, the Welsh author shows that she is not just adept at imagining disturbingly close futures, but a playful interpreter of historic events too ... Mackintosh’s restrained prose tends to mean her novels are slim – this one is just short of 200 pages. This doesn’t make the book lacking – her central characters are vivid, and she skilfully nods to other strange things going on in the town too: six horses are found dead in a field; a boy jumps into a bonfire. But it does leave you wanting more. While Elodie has an insatiable appetite for feeling desired, I could have so much more of Sophie Mackintosh’s stunning writing.
Elodie may remind some readers of a more blatantly carnal descendant of Emma Bovary. The denouement is based upon a real-life tragedy in a small French town, but readers won’t find any real answers to that mystery here. They will, however, find Mackintosh’s incantatory prose as hypnotic as ever.
Intense but muddled ... Mackintosh’s account remains gauzy; though the cause of the deaths is revealed at the end, big questions remain, including whether Violet and her husband are figments of Elodie’s imagination. Though evocative at first, the riffs on desire grow repetitive and fail to illuminate the material. This is a misfire.