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This review is taken from PN Review 271, Volume 49 Number 5, May - June 2023.

Cover of Marigold and Rose
Paul FranzLouise Glück, Marigold and Rose (Carcanet) £12.99

Marigold and Rose is Louise Glück’s second book to appear since she won the Nobel Prize in October 2020 and her first to bear the designation ‘A Fiction’. Neither a novel nor a short story, it is identified in the publicity materials, plausibly enough, as a ‘fable’. That term has the advantage of having been favoured by Glück in the past: her Poems 1962–2012 contains five ‘Fables’, plus an extensive set of ‘Parables’. Yet such poems are not ‘fables’ in the strict sense – that is, stories ‘in which animals substituted for people’, to adopt the description of the alphabet book that Marigold, one of the infant protagonists of Glück’s latest book, is spotted reading in its opening pages, and which her twin sister Rose, ‘a social being’, detests. Instead, Glück’s fables and parables are what we might call interpretive genres: short narratives, akin to dream, with an enigmatic significance. What then is the significance of Marigold and Rose?

Its subject is the titular infants’ first year. Its episodes include: sitting in the garden, learning to climb stairs, imagining their mother’s childhood, learning to use a cup and spoon, enduring the death of a grandmother and (by occasion) adults’ euphemism and lies, coming to apprehend Mother and Father as distinct people, celebrating a first birthday party. Beneath this changing surface, however, flows its truer subject: the twins’ natures as individuals and in relation to each other, including how each is shaped or revealed by the other, and by the other’s relation to the world. That the ...

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