Here’s a review of a niche book from a reviewer well outside of that niche. The double-header of My Lady Opium and Morphine was loaned to me from a co-worker making a return from France. My Lady Opium is a collection of short stories featuring, well, Opium as the central theme. Each story is varied in time, theme, and voice. I much preferred the flipped side of Morphine, which was one self-contained story that I liken to 19th Century France’s version of Requiem for a Dream.
Let’s start our decadence with Opium, shall we? In fourteen stories the reader is taken across kingdoms, junkets, and perhaps hell itself. Characters varied from fairies and vampires to kings and satanic beings. While the book cover features a topless woman and erotica classification, the largest fetish was the lucid description of opium, so much so that I could almost swear I could smell incense coming off the pages. With the writing so varied and incongruent, I am almost positive the author was doing experimental research whilst writing each story. I wasn’t a fan—at all—but to some, this may be their guilty indulgence.
In Morphine, we have a different author’s artistic statement regarding the affect illicit drugs had on the then modern France. Hidden among even the highest level of authority, human lives came crumbling down. Within these pages we are witness to infidelity, abortion, and suicide. The end result is tragic no matter the walk of life.
As with other writings of the era, there are many characters thrown out at once (not so much so with the short stories) and period-specific terminologies are used without abandon. This makes the reading laborious at times, but we are still left with enough foothold to grasp the meaning and plot.
If I had to recommend this book solely on the short stories, I wouldn’t. However, Morphine was interesting enough to warrant a recommendation to anyone interested in period pieces of this topic. Otherwise, I’ll stick to my usual foray of reading material.