Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Audrey tearfully thought of Piccadilly. Sobbing she uttered, ‘I do.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I absolutely love the two-part ending that is this chapter and the next. They’re like the dramatic finale of a stage musical or an opera, and I see them in those terms.
In this chapter, we begin with a sinister duet between Isaac Nettle and Madame Akkikuyu. At the behest of Nicodemus, she persuades Nettle to create a sign of loathing and vengeance in his cramped and airless forge. Cellos hum in time with Nicodemus’s sly instructions in Akkikuyu’s ear. Drums pound with the fall of Nettle’s hammer, his earlier hymns to the Green reprised in verses of grief and fury.
Alison Sedge’s high, terrified alarm is echoed by the fraught whine of the strings as the corn dolly appears and threatens the mice. When it falls lifeless before Audrey, the music ceases completely in an instant of charged hush.
The Fennywolders sing in threatening chorus; Isaac Nettle’s menacing baritone delivers their ultimatum. Frantic strings delineate the horror of what is about to take place. Over them all soars Audrey’s heartbreaking plea for mercy. Finally, Twit comes in with a small but strong voice to save her from the noose, reprising the theme of his solo song ‘In Olde Fennywolde’, green sparks flashing where he treads.
Twit and Audrey join in lamenting but courageous chorus as Nettle marries them before the hanging tree. The lights dim, and Akkikuyu is revealed in garish spotlight. Nicodemus’ cello returns, darker and deeper. Nearby, Alison’s discarded mousebrass sparkles invitingly.
Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter is such utter genius. If you look at some other love triangles – I’m thinking the cinematic versions of Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games, for instance – inevitably the person at the centre of the triangle has to hit some point where they have to choose one or the other. (Or even LOST, for that matter, but not sure if there’s an overlap between Jarvis fans and LOST watchers.) Which then gets problematic very fast, because without fail, half the readership/viewership liked Person A, the other half liked Person B and no matter which way it pans out, somebody will be annoyed with the author.
But this setup is brilliant because of the inevitability of how it all works. Whatever Audrey might have felt for Piccadilly (and vice versa), she must marry Twit or perish. And so Audrey is broken-hearted because she loved Dilly-O. Twit is broken-hearted because he really does love Audrey. But we’re not really angry with any of it, because how else could it go under the circumstances?
So, in one chapter, everyone has been doomed to a relatively loveless future … Ah, you British! You’re such a melancholy group. I’m sure no American would write a chapter like this! Anyway, I’ll try to keep stiff upper lip about all this but it’s a struggle, people!
The only highlight to this otherwise devastating chapter is the awesome display of defiance that Madame Akkikuyu makes against Nicodemus. But will it last? (I actually can’t remember exactly what happens in chapter 14, so that is a real question I have. See you after the grand finale!)