Richard Jones discovers that the first novel of an Oxford graduate gets under your skin

The title of Somerville College graduate Kat Gordon’s novel, The Artificial Anatomy of Parks, may sound like a dissertation on the declining role of green spaces in modern leisure but conveys the emotional dissection of the Parks family.

The novel is seen through the eyes of Tallie, the daughter of a happy couple whose unquestioning love is replaced by unanswered questions after a tragic accident.

The plot’s development is given literal structure by the use of anatomical form – skin, bones and blood given life and death by the heart.

By using the body as a narrative framework we are presented with an analogy for Tallie’s spiritual journey from innocence into a void of distrust and dark rumours before the heart is rediscovered and with it redemption.

English graduate Gordon has the prose style of an emotional detective picking up the pieces of the main character’s traumatised past. By using recollections of clarity and darkness the reader sees Tallie’s painful adolescence immersed in a kaleidoscope of images only given definition by the denouement.

Hanging over this traumatic tale is the spectre of the dissolute Uncle Jack whose exact relationship with Evelyn, Tallie’s mother, is alluded to but only confirmed in the surprising climax.

The two characters are the clash of hope and despair with the evil of Grandfather Albert permeating the souls of all the characters.

Gillian and Vivienne are panto villains providing humour and painful truths in equal measure.

Ironically their sibling clashes provide light relief to the drama of Tallie’s search for her father Edward whose heart is literally and metaphorically clinging to life.

Ultimately, like a surgeon, the author cleverly strips back the physical and psychological layers of the past to reveal the hidden truth and possible cure for Tallie’s tortured soul.

The Artificial Anatomy of Parks by Kat Gordon, Legend Press, £8.99