Title: The Melancholy History of Mayfly
Author: Mutch Katsonga
Genre: Supernatural / Coming-of-Age
In The Melancholy History of Mayfly, Mutch Katsonga tells the story of a young man named Childe who is kept hidden by his parents during his whole childhood because of a curse he possesses. Childe falls in love with a girl named Gemini, the first person to show him kindness, and what follows is how he went from an innocent young man exploring the world for the first time to a man who rots away in a dungeon. The narrative is written by Childe himself as he awaits his death, and as the story unfolds, a tragic tale of love and loss is revealed.
Katsonga’s 47,000-word story could best be described as a love poem. The language he employs evokes beautiful imagery and tugs at the heartstrings. The style of this coming-of-age tale is quite literary, inviting the reader to ponder the depths of emotion the protagonist experiences in a varied range, from utter happiness, to complete desperation, to destructive hatred. That the author doesn’t shy away from presenting serious themes is a brave endeavor.
The effect isolation can have on a person is written with poignant detail, almost to the point of being disturbing, perhaps too much so for some readers. However, the darkness of some of Childe’s thoughts are contrasted with the light, such as how he reacts to the first expression of love, much like a plant kept in the dark too long soaking up life-giving sunlight.
The first-person narrative and diary-like style lend well to the reader being able to move right alongside the protagonist as he shares his story. However, this type of narrative lends toward telling rather than showing. It usually works, but a more active and engaging narrative could render the opportunity for further exploration of several scenes. Because we spend all our time in Childe’s mind, we are limited in experiencing the story from other characters’ points of view. While it’s important and interesting to know and understand what the protagonist is feeling and thinking, many scenes felt like they could have been expanded, giving the reader more depth by showing rather than telling.
Katsonga’s story surprises the reader on a few occasions by taking unexpected turns. These twists work well to keep the reader turning pages and only deepen the empathy the reader feels for the protagonist. To be invested in the welfare of the character is important, and the author does a fine job of this. Since this is a very character-driven story, the fact that the author effectively captures the reader’s interest with each page by creating a complex protagonist is even more important than if the story were driven mostly by plot.
The Melancholy History of Mayfly is a gorgeously written tale about an isolated young man who lives the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The author makes us think deeply about the human condition, what we can endure, why we endure, and how we endure through life’s ups and downs. Most of all, Katsonga’s story is a tale about falling in love and loving life for what it is, especially if its brevity is but a day like the mayfly’s.
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