THE BEDLAM STACKS

Natasha Pulley

In 1859, ex–East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall with an injury that almost cost him his leg. When the India Office recruits him for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea; nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is eager to escape the strange events plaguing his family’s crumbling estate, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for the edge of the Amazon.

There he meets Raphael, a priest around whom the villagers spin unsettling stories of impossible disappearances,

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In 1859, ex–East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall with an injury that almost cost him his leg. When the India Office recruits him for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea; nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is eager to escape the strange events plaguing his family’s crumbling estate, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for the edge of the Amazon.

There he meets Raphael, a priest around whom the villagers spin unsettling stories of impossible disappearances, cursed woods, and living stone. Merrick must separate truth from fairy tale, and gradually he realizes that Raphael is the key to a legacy left by generations of Tremayne explorers before him, one which will prove more valuable than quinine, and far more dangerous.

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  • Bloomsbury USA
  • Hardcover
  • August 2017
  • 352 Pages
  • 9781620409671

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$26.00

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About Natasha Pulley

Natasha Pulley studied English literature at Oxford University and earned a creative writing M.A. at the University of East Anglia. She lives near Ely in Cambridgeshire, England.

Praise

“A meditation on love, trust, and the passage of time.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A witty, entrancing novel. . . . Pulley makes the fantastic feel plausible and burnishes her reputation as a gifted storyteller.”Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The Peru that Markham and Tremayne encounter is a sheer fantastical delight. . . . She writes elegantly and plots like a pro.”The Times (UK)

Discussion Questions

1. The novel is written in first person. How does this point of view affect your reading experience? How are the setting, time period, and cultural mindsets made clear through this choice of POV?

2. Consider the structure of the novel. Why is it written in parts? What do the delineations do to move the novel along? Which themes are established in each part?

3. Does The Bedlam Stacks follow in the tradition of the travel narrative genre? Why or why not? Is it effective to write the novel in this genre? What does it add to the story? What inherent pitfalls exist in the genre?

4. How does Pulley construct settings and what roles do those settings play in the novel? How does Merrick develop as a character depending on where he is across the globe? What new insights about himself does he encounter in each place? Does Merrick have a home?

5. Pulley employs flashbacks in portions of the novel. How do these flashbacks help flesh out the characters and their backstories? How are they important to the linear events happening in Peru? Were they helpful to you as a reader?

6. Find some passages that show the surreal nature of The Bedlam Stacks’ world. How do these moments operate in the greater text? How do they create liminal spaces of reality and magic?

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