Another handsome volume from Henningham Family Press (not that there’s any other kind), this time the first novel by Scottish poet J.O. Morgan. I don’t know Morgan’s poetry, but after reading Pupa I am certainly intrigued.
In the world of this novel, people hatch from eggs and may choose to spend their entire lives as a larval (apparently of insectoid appearance), or go through a pupal stage and become an adult (who seem to bear a closer resemblance to humans as we know them). We meet Sal and Megan, two young larvals in low-level admin jobs. The question of whether to pupate is on their minds, and Sal for one is sceptical. As he says to Megan:
“And when you end up looking so different, how can you be sure it’s really you? You can’t know if you’ll like how you’ll turn out. And you can’t switch back again. That’s it forever. You’re stuck. At least this way you already know. You can be content. Just as you are.”
Megan is more inclined to keep her thoughts to herself, and Sal eventually discovers why: she has chosen to pupate. The two then find themselves in different social worlds, and having to reconfigure their friendship as a result.
There’s potentially a whole history behind the world of Pupa, but by focusing in on these two characters, Morgan highlights the metaphor. The larval/adult divide could stand for age, class – any social division where you could move from one side to the other. There’s an openness to Pupa which allows the reader to imagine with it in different ways. It’s a sandbox of a novel, and a pleasure to spend time with.