Sunday, December 13, 2009

Guest Fic Rec: Feisty Fruit

Feisty Y. Beden's

I'll admit it--I'm pretty new to the Wide World of Twific. I read my first fanfic just about a year ago (I'm not going to tell you which one, but it sounds an awful lot like "Schmide Schmawake"). After I'd been made that fic's little bitch, I started clicking on some random shit, and, yeah, that was not a good idea. But then someone sent me a link to a brand new story called "Such Fruits as These," and I was immediately sucked in (no vampire-pun intended). I think it helped that I had no expectations for fic other than it should be well written. Not an Edward/Bella story? No big. No schmexy times? Whatever, I'm chill.

Grendelsmother had me by the first three sentences: simple, to the point, and like a punch in the gut.

I am Rosalie Hale. I am beautiful. I am deadly.

Did you all run away already? Come back; I've got naked pictures of Rob. Okay, no, I don't. Okay, I do, but they're of Rob Reiner. But come back anyway. Yes, it's a Rosalie story. Yes, it's canon-ish/AU. No, it's not fluffy bunnies and tight, wet snatches and throbbing members and all that jizz jazz. What it is, is fic for people who want a well-written, engrossing story, the kind you might plunk down actual cash or plastic to buy in a bookstore--you know, one of those places where they sell stories printed on paper and bound into a form you can carry around, like, in your hands. It's that good.

Okay, so what is it about? We all know the story of Rosalie: engaged to Royce King, brutally attacked by him and his friends and left for dead. Carlisle sees her beauty and wants to create a mate for Edward. Or something like that. It's been a while since I've read the books. *coughs* We're told Rosalie eventually tracked down the men that attacked her, and killed them off, one by one, all the while refusing to drink their blood. It's a story both horrifying and fascinating, but as told in the books, it's just a bare-bones sketch.

What Grendelsmother has done with "Such Fruits as These" is to flesh out Rosalie's story in delicious, gory detail. Even though Rosalie was changed in the 1930s, there is something about Grendelsmother's writing that evokes a Victorian horror/penny dreadful feel: the details, the manners, the gentility masking the ugliest parts of human nature beneath it.

Rosalie was raised as a proper young lady, her innocence and then her life stolen in a most violent manner. Her biggest human flaw was perhaps her vanity--but did that mean she deserved her fate? She awakens as a vampire, untrusting, full of rage and a thirst for revenge. But with the motherly influence of the compassionate Esme (whose own backstory is told in simple, brutal, and unwavering language), Rosalie wonders if revenge is the fastest path toward healing. Rosalie is on two intertwined journeys: one of vengeance, the other of regaining her humanity. She doesn't seek humanity in the literal sense, of course, but she eventually comes to wonder if "an eye for an eye," as satisfying as it seems in the moment, is capable of healing the deeper hurt.

The writing is exquisite. In the first chapter, shortly before running into drunk Royce and his friends, still-human Rosalie feels doubt about her upcoming marriage:

That night I’d visited Vera and Henry. I’d watched her with her husband when they thought I couldn’t see. I still remember, even through the haze of human sight, the feeling I had when he gently kissed her on the cheek. It was like I was watching something intimate, private. Royce never touched me that way. He barely touched me at all unless someone was watching. I couldn’t imagine him being that tender. A fresh surge of jealousy coursed through me, followed by frustration. How did plain Vera end up having everything that I wanted? I was Rosalie Hale, fiancĂ©e to Royce King. I was beautiful, and soon, I would be rich and powerful, too....

But the look in his eyes as he looked at his wife played again and again in my brain. When Royce looked at me, it was a look only of pride and possession. Like you’d look at a prized horse or a new car. His eyes never softened that way, they never saw anything other than my beauty....

I saw my life stretch before me suddenly, as empty as the street I was on. No matter how dim my human memories become, no matter how much the events that followed overshadowed everything else, I have always remembered that feeling of emptiness. I can’t remember what color my house was painted or my doll’s name or if we had any pets. But I remember that horrible hollow feeling as I walked down that empty street.

The attack is brutal and hard to read in its grittiness and realism. But Grendelsmother does not flinch. We are there in Rosalie's head, and we begin to understand why Rosalie in "present day" is so wary, so bitter, so untrusting.

Edward is furious when Carlisle brings Rosalie into their home. Even as she is undergoing her painful transformation, she is aware of his hatred. When they finally speak in Chapter 3, Edward explains his reservations about bringing Rosalie into the Cullen clan:

"You seem angry, much angrier than when Esme joined us. The problem with being vampire, aside from the need for blood, is that you freeze in the state in which you ended your human life. You remain the same age, the same maturity, and, frequently, the same emotional state. I, for instance, had been horribly ill, and had just lost my mother. As such, I’m a little…” He fumbled with the words for a moment. “Melancholy. And I find it very difficult to connect.”

Did you see that, Edward fans? Even though this is a Rosalie story, we get some good Edward-angst! Poor Edward. I'd like to snuggle him ... ahem. I meant to say that with just one brushstroke, Grendelsmother has given brooding, occasionally uptight, and, let's face it, little emo-bitch Edward a sympathetic voice. We understand, too, where he came from.

He lets slip during their first real conversation that he killed Esme's abusive husband, thereby unintentionally giving Rosalie a mission in her undead life: to pick off her attackers one by one. Edward, being a mind-reader, sees her plans and tries to dissuade her, but he eventually relents, going so far as to help her on her violent quest. Yes, he does it in part to protect his vampire clan from discovery (because Rosalie's bloodlust, as a newborn, would be uncontrollable), but he also feels that it should be up to Rosalie to decide the fate of the men that violated her.

And thus begins the gothic awesomeness that is Rosalie's Kill-Bill-like revenge journey. The plotting between Edward and Rosalie is as exciting and detail-filled as anything in Ocean's Eleven. They must keep their plans secret from Esme and Carlisle. I'm not going to lie--the revenge sequences are pretty fucking awesome, gory and satisfying and appalling all at once. But Rosalie still feels empty, unhappy. And here is the other part of the story: Rosalie's struggle to let go, to heal, maybe even to forgive.

Esme shares her thoughts on recovering from trauma:

"Time does not heal a vampire. Something else must change us. A sudden, monumental shift in everything that you thought was important.” She looked at me steadily, even though we were still running slowly, at a human pace.

“It’s not possible for me, then,” I said matter-of-factly.

“Why would that be, Rosalie? You are going to live for a very long time, possibly forever. None of us can see what is coming. There may well be something out there that will fill the holes in your heart.”

“My heart,” I said bitterly.

“It is still there,” Esme said softly. “It may no longer beat, but it is there. Time will not heal the bitterness you feel, but something else may. And that is something that time may bring."

All my random quoting doesn't begin to capture the many facets present in this story. There's mystery and intrigue regarding one of the "men" (or maybe not, hmmm?) who attacked Rosalie. There are the gruesome avenging murders. And there is Rosalie's emptiness, her growing frustration and desperation that these acts of violence are not releasing the anger inside her.

What is the path that will lead to Rosalie's healing? I doubt it will be black or white. Rosalie has a long struggle ahead of her, conflicting instincts, hatred for those who hurt her, but also a growing hatred of her own hatred. She hates what she has become. She aspires to be like Esme but believes it impossible. Will Rosalie ever find her peace?

If you're in the mood for moral ambiguity, gore, gutwrenching situations, and a most human portrayal of our favorite vampires, give "Such Fruits as These" a try. Even if you're not a Rosalie fan, it's a terrific read. And Grendelsmother might just change the way you feel about Ms. Hale.
Feisty Y. Beden will do almost anything for bacon. *Almost*, she said, motherfuckers, so put ... *whatever* that is in your hands down. No. Now. Put it down. She doesn't care if the bacon is nitrate-free. Jesus, forget she said anything. When she isn't dreaming of bacon (stop it) or Lucky Charms, she writes angst, flangst, heartfail, and crack, not necessarily in that order. If you know her at all, it is probably because of Sleepers, Awake or the twunty anonymous reviews she left for Mr. Horrible (she's "Henrietta Pussycat," "algieneedsparklelingus," and "GUC Edward Cullen" over there). You're probably wondering how she got a guest-rec spot on TLYDF. Don't worry; she's wondering the same.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this recommendation. . . I like a good, well written dark fic to balance my fluff consumption, and this will quite fit the bill. I wouldn't have found it on my own, so glad to learn more about it.


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