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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
These three carefully plotted and complex novellas take readers on a mythical journey to Victorian Yorkshire, where magic meets reality with strange aplomb. Barlow has a marvelously distinctive voice and a talent for casting even the grotesque in a sympathetic light, and his haunting tone captures perfectly the extraordinary lives of his unusual characters.
In the title story, Captain Gusto becomes apprentice to the famous eater Michael Mulligan, who has made a career of one-man shows during which he eats outrageous items, such as china cups or furniture, as requested by members of the audience. As Gusto embarks on his own circuit, however, he sees the degradation of society as a whole in the increasingly repellent items he is asked to consume. In "The Possession of Thomas-Bessie," the act of possessing a living thing for greed and profit wreaks havoc and despair on the lives of those who refuse to love a winged cat for itself. And in "The Donkey Wedding at Gomersal," an alienated and shy woman finds herself loved by a man and an entire town through the magical effects of her own cooking.
Throughout the three novellas, Barlow manages a playful, joyful quality without sacrificing emotional depth or irony. That the stories are based on fact makes the journey through his macabre, wondrous world all the more delicious. (Holiday 2004 Selection)