August 17, 2015

“The Predictions”, by Biana Zander: Communes, punk rock, and new age magick gone awry [book review]

Metalheads Who Read

The Predictions Bianca Zander

The Predictions Bianca Zander

Recently, Bianca Zander – author of the award-winning and slightly gothic The Girl Below – published her second novel, The Predictions, the story of one woman’s struggle to outrun the destiny that is predicted for her. It follows the story of Poppy, first as a teenage girl growing up in the Gaialands commune during the late 1970s when a stranger arrives, and then as a 20-something who followed her lover and fellow Gaialands runaway to London where he became part of the punk (and then hair metal) movement. The title of the book refers to a fortune which the commune newcomer Shakti gave to Poppy. There was one for each of the children who lived at Gaialands, drawn with inks and watercolours to represent the best and worst of what would come in their lives.

The main thing that attracted me to this book was the commune setting, especially in what was an interesting period in NZ’s history. I’ve always been fascinated with commune living and anyone living outside of the western ideal. Gaialands is the 70s version of sustainable, off-grid living, and I enjoyed the chapters that explored Poppy’s  youth and the way she and the other children lived their daily lives.

Fiction set in New Zealand often doesn’t appeal to a wider audience, but as a significant amount of this book takes place in London, and the scenes in New Zealand have only a vague sense of place (it could easily be set somewhere in the US), I see no reason why the Predictions wouldn’t be enjoyed by anyone.

So much of this book is about the concept of letting go of the future to focus on the present. Poppy is so afraid of her prediction that she can’t relax and enjoy her life with her new baby. She is so wrapped up in stopping him becoming what her prediction says that her life unravels around her and she is a bystander to it. I was expecting this book to get quite dark and sinister, but it’s actually more mundane than that (the word “mundane” is not used as a negative). There’s a light, deft hand here, and without getting too dark it creates a much more engaging character.

For a large portion of the book, Poppy is pregnant or dealing with her young son. I actually found the way the author wrote this to be quite fascinating. Poppy’s struggles with not sleeping, with getting Zachary to settle, they are perfectly “mundane” problems that other authors often gloss over, but written here with such a clarity it’s easy to see how Poppy’s mind is warped and tangled by her current, sleepless state.

My only complaint, and I feel it is a minor one, is that I didn’t think the story was as rooted in time as it could of been. Apart from the dates at the beginning of each chapter, there was little in the language, setting, description or tone that gave a sense of the period. I felt in particular that the London scenes where Fran and Poppy and Lucas were exploring the music scene could have been more rooted in the actual scene at the time, which was pretty charismatic and recognisable.

I also would love to read a sequel that dealt with the life of Fritz after he left the commune. But that’s just me being nosy!

Grab your copy of The Predictions from Amazon, or from NZ bookstores this month.

If you haven’t read it yet, you can pick up The Sunken, my dark fantasy novel, on Amazon now!

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