The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

“I would think for hours how strange it was that some parts of words are silent, just like some parts of our lives. Did the people who wrote the dictionaries decide to mirror language to our lives, or did it just happen that way?”
Rene Denfeld, The Enchanted 


I picked up this small book about a year ago because I vaguely remembered this review from Mercy’s Bookish Musings. I was looking for a short book to read in early February and picked this one off my shelves. For a book just over 200 pages long it sure does pack an emotional wallop.

The plot concerns an unnamed lady who is a death row investigator, a priest, and a prison. The narrator of the book is one of the convicts in the prison and he is in the lower part of the prison – the “dungeon” – and he indicts that the crime he has committed is horrific. In the beginning of the book I thought there would be some elements of magical realism based on this narrator’s perceptions, but I quickly learned that this prisoner is mentally unwell and that accounts for the feel of blurring reality and time. There is a bit of mystery in this book in that the reader knows that the lady is investigating a prisoner for a death row appeal, the priest has a sordid past, and the prison has a kind, but firm, warden, but a very corrupt guard who causes issues.

The Enchanted does contain some serious material that could be triggering for some readers. I will say that it reminded me of Emma Donoghue’s Room in the way it was written. Like Room, The Enchanted has heavy materials, but the writing is not exploitative and unnecessarily graphic. I was able to understand what happened to the characters without reliving every detail with them.

The language of the book is at once sparse and lush, magical and gritty. The overall theme is that even humans who make terrible choices are still human. One can make overwhelmingly bad or even evil choices and still experience regret, loss, vulnerability, and loneliness. Crimes are not excused in this novel, but there are real human hurts that makes it hard to see the world strictly divided into good people and bad people.

The Enchanted is a small book, but a big read.



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