The House of the Seven Women by Tito Mouraz is a lovely book. It's a visual story of the region around Mouraz's place of birth in Portugal told through The House of the Seven Women; seven unmarried sisters with strange mystical powers.
'On full moon nights, the women would fly in their white garments from balcony to the leafy branches of the chestnut tree across the street. From there they would seduce men who would pass by.'
The story starts with a wood shown in the daytime. It's a tranquil wood, with pine trees rising above a fern-covered floor.
Then we see a house; ramshackle, windowless, deserted. A picture of a tree comes next; isolated, sinuous and bare. There's grass; dessicated, flattened and white. We already have a picture of the world the seven women live in, the world they have created.
Interspersed throughout the book are portraits of locals, especially men. The region has been left behind, deserted both by the population and by time. There is a feeling these portraits are showing lost souls; to the seven women of the house, seven women who find a parallel in the savage economics of a rapacious world.
Destruction comes in the form of fire and from the fire comes smoke. This world is burning, there is destruction in the air. Then the nightime comes. There are ladders that reach into the sky, trees that take the form of rearing goats and stone circled firepits that speak of worlds beyond our ken.
This is an empty land with burnt out cars and unpicked fruit. The fertility that exists shrivels on the vine, the life that there is struggles to survive because there is simply nowhere else to go. It struggles and then it dies.
You can fight against the never-ending maelstrom of this 'progress'; a badly stuffed dog on a pedestal in front of your house might ward off the malevolence for a while, but in actuality only death awaits and your house will end up as empty as the rest, and the land left only for those beautiful but fleeting spirits of the night.
So there you have it, it's the House of the Seven Women, but really the seduction comes from the cheapness with which we value the world, the land, the lifestyle that came before. We don't and so it dies quite easily.
The House of the Seven Women reminds me of another favourite, The Spook Light Chronicles (which I wrote about here and here). But while The Spook Light Chronicles tells its story through the people of the Ozarks, Mouraz (through his editing) tells his story in more stark economic terms, creating a very strong and transparent narrative through evocative images.
Buy The House of the Seven Women here.