Goblin by Ever Dundas review – a brilliant picaresque

This prizewinning debut novel about the so-called ‘pet massacre’ of the second world war is a meditation on trauma and loss that brims with wild joy

Dead things can’t die; weirdos always find each other. These two statements, from Scottish author Ever Dundas’s terrific debut novel, contain between them much of the meaning of the book, and much that makes it moving. It is a celebration of freakery, of creating one’s own family; a meditation on trauma and loss and abandonment (in both senses of that word) which, somehow, is never bleak.Goblin brims throughout with a kind of reckless joy.

The story switches regularly and rapidly between past and almost-present, mostly in London: between the firelit city of the blitz and the firelit city of the 2011 riots. Goblin, when we first encounter her, is an 81-year-old reader-in-residence at Edinburgh’s Central Library, where she is kept company by Ben, a ...