The prison is corrupt and the living conditions are awfully harsh, which makes it even more surprising that our narrator is able to find so much beauty in what we take for granted every day.
As well as his observations on prison life, we also learn a little about some of the other inmates and staff, including: an inmate named York, the warden, a fallen priest and a death row investigator he calls 'the lady'.
We are shown prisoners who long for the release of death and those who fear death and will do anything to escape the finality of the prison oven. I found it bleakly fascinating to read about the lengths men will go to to satiate their desire for pleasure and power and the impact a lack of physical touch has on a human being.
The Enchanted is not a novel with a message about the death penalty or prison conditions, rather it's an enchanted look at love, an absence of love, abuse, violence, guilt, evil and magic.
Here's a quote from Page 3:
"Inside, the lies you tell become the person you become. On the outside, sun and reality shrink people back to their actual size. In here, people grown into their shadows."Author Rene Dunfeld has worked as a death penalty case investigator herself, and this experience shows in her intimate portrayal of inmates and the prison system. The inmate narrator in this literary novel is mute, which adds a further dimension to the story.
I'm confident The Enchanted will make my Favourite Reads of 2015 list, and highly recommend it to a variety of readers. It's almost impossible to believe this is Rene Dunfeld's first novel, (because it seems almost perfect) but I hope to read more from her in the future.
My rating = *****