A wonderfully imaginative and surprising debut novel about the inexorable approach of modernity.
"Imagine the time of my grandfather's grandfather, when the darkness was newly separated from the light. Society was only a shadowy image of what it would soon become. This was Mandragora before my invention and all that it set in motion."-from The Testament of Yves Gundron
So begins Yves Gundron's account of the strange events to befall Mandragora. It is a desperate, primitive place-plowing was only recently introduced, candles do not exist, and the inhabitants know no number larger than twenty. Nevertheless, there was little conflict before Yves's invention-the harness-irrevocably transformed the Mandragorans' lives.
Yves's manuscript, which bears witness to these changes, appears to have been prepared for publication by an academic named Ruth Blum. But what at first seems a historical document proves to be something else entirely. Yves's brother, Mandrik le Chouchou, the town mystic, regales his fellow villagers with exotic tales of his travels to "Indochina." And when Yves recalls the words of a song that is recognizably a blues lyric, we know that either Ruth Blum is up to something or Mandragora is not what it seems. In this playful and adventurous debut, Emily Barton explores the two-edged sword of technology, asking what is lost in our fervent pursuit of modernity.