I’m still puzzling over Mutch Katsonga’s novel Beyond the Spiral Gates a couple of days after finishing it. It’s a weirdly compelling book about the experience of a boy in Wickfields, a brutal home for criminal children. I read it quickly in two sittings, with questions accumulating in my mind as I went along.
Where is it located? Perhaps Australia, perhaps Europe, perhaps New Zealand; the clues are contradictory. The language of the first-person narration is faintly archaic, but peppered with colloquialisms that would be familiar in modern Australia.
What is the time period? The rural setting has horses and carts – but there is mention of plastics. And the legal-political context: A dystopian future, or a grindingly cruel modern dictatorship?
My guess is that Katsonga’s invented world is tailored to the psychological and spiritual journey of the boy. It’s a reversed-engineered mash-up of Lord of the Flies and Ivan Denisovich, and it doesn’t matter a bit if I can’t pin it down to a place and a time. I believed in it and I wanted our boy to win over his travails.
This is a debut novel of the kind I like: It’s brave, fresh and different, and it owes nothing to anyone.
There’s a bonus: Mutch Katsonga doubles as musician Indie Soull, and has recorded some sweet tracks on Spotify to accompany the novel. Check out Frozen in Time.
Find out about my new novel Cairo Mon Amour here. Like Mutch Katsonga, I write quirky novels about love, betrayal and redemption.