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Winged Helmet, White Horse by Karyn Hay

Karyn Hay’s latest novel is an entertaining, darkly comic literary page-turner set in contemporary London.

Tim is the main protagonist in this psychological drama, a man beaten down by life. After writing one critically acclaimed book of poetry, Tim is struggling to write his second, while juggling work and the parenting of their three-year-old daughter, Marigold, with his wife Natasha – a job made even more fraught as Marigold is not toilet trained yet. His wife doesn’t seem to like Tim very much, preferring to spend time on ‘positive affirmations’ and spending money. In fact, as the novel progresses, Natasha gets increasingly hostile towards Tim. Then there are the other people in their lives: Dylan, Natasha’s cousin from New Zealand, who is staying with them, and their ‘friends’ Claire and Gareth who they socialise with. Tim is trying to take control of his life – he wants to give up the booze, and he starts attending AA meetings, but doesn’t feel comfortable telling his wife what he is doing. Tim makes some unsettling discoveries in the course of the book, ultimately concluding that any control he thought he had was an illusion.

Winged Helmet, White Horse is a novel about illusion – that what we believe to be true isn’t necessarily so. It’s also a novel about marriage, friendship and being a parent. This is literary fiction at its best. Karyn Hay knows how to create a memorable, beautifully crafted sentence, and her characters are well-drawn and believable in every nuance, but she also is a master of pace and suspense. Just when I thought I couldn’t read another page of the increasingly sad and toxic marriage between Tim and Natasha, events happen that turns the novel on its head and then we are charging towards an extremely satisfying climax.

Winged Helmet, White Horse is an intelligent, original and thought-provoking read that manages to be sad and funny all at the same time. Karyn Hay once again proves what an outstanding novelist she is, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Esom House Press, RRP $34.99