It’s been so long since I’ve heard a “new voice” in horror writing that I’d forgotten what it feels like. Felicity Savage’s “Black Wedding” in her collection Black Wedding and Five More Funerals gave the kind of “jolt” of sudden awareness that I felt when I read Susanna Clarke for the first time.
Part of what makes horror frightening is the juxtaposition of the everyday with the bizarre. However, the “everyday” created by most writers tends to be a bit boring, probably because the writer wants to show the “scary stuff” in sharper contrast. (THink any opening to a Steven King novel.)
In “Black Wedding,” Ms. Savage takes a different and, to my mind, more original approach. The story opens with an American young woman attending a very-British wedding, chock-full of Bridget Jones-ish commentary and acute observation. In doing so, she creates an “everyday” that could hold its own as straight chick-lit. It’s that good.
In the aftermath of the wedding, seemingly insignificant details gradually build a sense that something is “off,” but it seems more like the protagonist is suffering from jet-lag and culture shock than anything remarkable. The reader is treated to a slice of Brit haut society that is both funny, irritating and just a little bit creepy, kinda like Hugh Grant, if you know what I mean.
Indeed, until the last few paragraphs, I was convinced that, at worst, the protagonist was facing nothing more than that possiblity that a new male friend might be a bit of a cad. With a cleverness that must be read to be believed, Ms. Savage instantly reframes everything that’s happened in the story, without making anything simple. It’s an ending that opens possibilities rather than tying up everything with a neat wedding bow.
I haven’t read the rest of this story collection, but if the other tales are of the quality of “Black Wedding,” I’m certain I’m in for a real treat. Truly, “Black Wedding” is one of the best short stories I’ve read in a very, very long time.