Five Wounds

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Shortlisted for an Aurealis Award

Surreal, darkly beautiful, and unsettling, this richly illustrated novel is by turns hilarious and horrific, grotesque and tender. Includes forty colour pages.

A cruel and arbitrary world, where disturbing lapses in logic are commonplace. A city built on water. Five people, isolated from those around them, but mysteriously connected to one another.

Gabriella is a mutilated angel, haunted by her inability to interpret prophecies. Cur is the rabid leader of a sect of dogs, desperate to escape his inheritance. Cuckoo is a gambler with a wax face, determined to find a fixed identity before his luck runs out. Magpie is a thief in search of the perfect photographic subject, terrified of going blind. Crow is a leper trying to distil the essence of death as an antidote to dying.

Everyone’s connected,’ Gabriella said. ‘You, me, Cur, Crow, Magpie.’ She ticked the names off.

‘Five fingers,’ Cuckoo said, watching her hand.

Gabriella picked up the theme. ‘Five wounds.’

‘Five wild cards,’ returned Cuckoo.

‘Or five marked cards. Someone’s playing games with us.’

At the end of the game, who wins and who loses? Who escapes their fate, and who fulfils it?

Originally published by Allen & Unwin, the second edition of Five Wounds has been extensively revised and updated. Now available as a free download from this site, or as a print-on-demand paperback from the Great British Bookshop (link above).

If you enjoy the book, please write a review and/or let others know about this site!


Reviews for the First Edition

Five Wounds … is like Christmas for book nerds. It’s like Christmas in July and regular Christmas combined, that’s how good it is. …

The five senses are a common theme in Five Wounds and it seems fitting then, that it appeals to the senses in such detail. I have literally tried everything short of licking the book.

Dave Drayton, Vibewire

The stories and studies of these characters intertwine with increasing intricacy as the novel builds to an immensely exciting, haunting, heartbreaking and ultimately satisfying conclusion.

The depiction of this alternative Venice is dreamy and surreal, but the author paints a world that feels completely authentic. The illuminations by Dan Hallett are a joy, and bring a lot to the book. Sometimes striking and colourful, and at other times comical and cartoonish, they reinforce the idea that this is a fairy tale for grown-ups. …

All in all, a very handsome book and a story that is symphonic in its poetry, breadth and cohesion. It is tempting to think that the author lives by the same motto as one of his characters; "Either Ceasar, or nothing."

James Scott, The Spit Press

One of the strangest books I've come across recently is the peculiar and wonderful Five Wounds, by the writer Jonathan Walker and the artist Dan Hallett (and designed by Zoe Sadokierski). Any attempt to categorise it is doomed to failure, but as a starting point it can best be described as an illustrated novel informed by the typographic structures of the King James Bible and inflected with various postmodern antics touches. And it has a talking dog. I've never read anything else quite like it.

Caustic Cover Critic

The story itself is a beautifully written and illustrated journey, but for me what made the novel truly ‘illuminated’ was the way in which the book refused to settle. Five Wounds is no summer beach distraction, it’s an intensely involved reading experience.  For me the journey of reading the book was one of active problem-solving and code-breaking, …

[For] those who will take its challenge the book is a truly unique project, and its reading reaps truly unique rewards. It is a beautiful and worthy piece of art, and with each stripping back, the heart of its mystery becomes more and more elusive, and yet more and more meaningful. Perhaps I will never uncover all of its secrets, but I have nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

Lyndon Riggall, Literary Minded

I’ve always felt the contemporary illustrated novel to be a bit of a bastardised mongrel; often lacking the substance and/or convenient format of a regular novel, while seldom delivering the immediacy of sequential art. Five Wounds has perhaps put an end to my ignorance. Rather than compensate for a deficiency of storytelling finesse, the images in this “illuminated novel” are an essential part of an intriguing, multifaceted package.

Walker’s tale effectively hops about in a non-linear fashion, detailing the initial encounters between his principal characters from multiple perspectives, and by the second act each of these wretched creatures has revealed a back-story terrible enough to earn our sympathy. There’s also a touch of black humour sewn throughout, particularly during a dinner scene in which the table acquires a fresh corpse with each of a series of brief blackouts. …

Five Wounds’s story would stand proud in any format, but the combination of Walker’s rich cityscape and Hallett’s spidery imagery results in something beyond a conventional book with superfluous pictures. Text and imagery feed off one another like Siamese twins, to the extent that it’s difficult to imagine either element surviving if separated. … whether you find greater meanings bellow its soiled surface or reach Walker’s dual endings scratching your head, Five Wounds: An illuminated Novel remains immersive, satisfying and consistently inventive.

9/10, Carl Doherty, Shelf Abuse

Five Wounds is one of those books I enjoyed holding, opening and exploring, and not just because it’s excitingly different to many of the books I read. Beyond being a well-crafted text, it’s a work of art in its own right. As good literature often will, it also extended my interest in a range of ideas, challenging me to explore new directions – in terms of the visual, the historical, the literary, the scientific, the geographical. But more than anything, it fulfilled its promise of adventure and playfulness. It is indeed a rich novel and I have no doubt I’ll be revisiting it.

Paul Burman, The View From Here

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