Thanks to Helen Lewis at LiterallyPR for a copy of The Ascension of Greenville in exchange for a fair review. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you purchase something through one of these links I’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you.
The town of Greenville, Utah, is dominated by the Septosect religious cult and its leader Harrison who has ambitions for increasing his religious control over the area. Living amidst the threat of a fatal virus, which could take a whole horde of people at a time, the members of the cult look to the Septosect’s ideals as a way of life, hoping that a divine entity will spare them from their doomsday.
They are trapped by Harrison’s reminder that leaving the town would mean divine condemnation. Deception about the virus, fake news and religious fervour keep the community isolated, but the death of a young girl leads to suspicions over the motives of Harrison. Living amidst the virus makes life feel desperate for Greenville’s community members, who feel that each passing month is precious but futile. The cult members must choose to believe if the seven principles of the Septosect will lead them to the truth, or to their death.
The Ascension of Greenville is an interesting novella by Anna Prattle. It examines a cult who uses the threat of a deadly virus to keep their members under control. At first nothing seems out of the ordinary, but slowly, you come to realise that things are not what they seem, and that those who proport to want to keep the community safe are the very ones who are doing it harm.
Told by snapshots, the reader is offered glimpses into the Septosect’s world, and many questions are left unanswered. The reader is required to join the dots and understand the motivations of the different characters, to piece together something of an understanding of the state of play.
It is a very timely novella, playing as it does on the notion of control that a virus – or threat from a virus – brings. It deals with heavy themes and explores individual motivations and thoughts. I enjoyed the multiple perspectives with with some who were opportunistic, whilst others were just trying to survive.
There is no doubt that Anna can write. Although a short book, she set herself an ambitious task of writing in a number of different character’s voices, without much time to establish whose perspective you are hearing. By and large she pulls this off, making it an enjoyable read. In general her prose style is very accomplished, especially considering her age. I certainly wish I had the wherewithal to write something of this standard when I was completing my ALevels.
There is no sense of resolution in The Ascension of Greenville, which is, I think, deliberate. However, there is something about the novella which feels slightly incomplete. There is so much more to the story to be told that this feels like the skeleton on which to build a full-length novel around. What is there is very good and enjoyable – and of course there is an art in what is left unsaid. I do think each character’s story deserved a little more time dedicated to it. There needed to be more of a central pull to moved the plot along, and a less skips in time to demonstrate how the situation escalated. (It is hard not to give away spoilers, so bear with!). I enjoyed what was there a lot – I would have just liked it to be a full length novel!
Overall, I give it three and a half stars out of five. The Ascension of Greenville is well written, intriguing enough to pull me in, and I would like to read more from Anna. I just think this needed a bit more to tie it all together to make it a complete story.