Tuesday, November 27, 2007

three's a crowd

My absence from the Kingfisher roost is not because I’ve not been reading - if anything it’s that I’ve been too wrapped up in reading to remember to review. I’m poor at multi-tasking - I’ve always struggled to balance the ins and outs of reading and writing. It’s just the way I am - little point in trying to fight it. So no proper reviews for now but some snippets from recent notable reads.

My second RIP II challenge read was The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing. My first proper foray into Lessing Land (I have a vague memory of reading her at school, perhaps a short story about swimming through an underwater tunnel?) and surely not my last. It’s a brave woman who writes a book that questions that innate mother / child love bond and Lessing is up to the task.

‘One early morning, something took Harriet quickly out of her bed into the baby’s room, and there she saw Ben balanced on the window-sill. It was high - heaven only knew how he had got up there! The window was open. In a moment he would have fallen out of it. Harriet was thinking, What a pity I came in… and refused to be shocked at herself.’

She lulls you with her tone and her setting, not to mention that meek little granny author photo on the cover - and then grabs you with teeth and claws.

And then there was Fred and Edie by Jill Dawson. My new favourite author.

‘I could eat those flowers. I want to eat them, to fill up my mouth with things green, things alive, things which keep growing and dying and growing again. I want to fill myself up and keep out the grey in here, the fine dust, the thinness and coldness, the bloodless drinks of tea, the empty corners of the room where even light, even air is absent and only absence is present like a grey crushing blanket, a suffocating weight.’

And what to do when you find one like Dawson - read all the novels in one delicious feast or try to eek them out, to savour and to tease? At the moment I’m trying the latter but feel myself edging dangerously nearer to the former all the time.

And then most recently Into the Forest by Jean Hegland. This was the first recommendation from the first book blog I read that I have followed through to reading completion. A simple but striking tale which felt like The Road recast by Little Women.

‘there’s a lucidity that sometimes comes in that moment when you find yourself looking at the world through your tears, as if those tears served as a lens to clarify what it is you’re looking at.’

While we are on the topic of tears I’ve found that even some disappointing books have their sparkling moments, like this jewel in the otherwise dull Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thompson -

‘In recent years, Iron Vale had become home to the Museum of Tears, and it was the inalienable right of every melancholic, no matter where they might live, to have a sample of their tears stored within the museum walls. All you had to do was write to the curators, enclosing proof of identity. They would send you an air-tight glass vial, no bigger than a lipstick. The next time you cried, you collected your tears and transferred they to the vial. Some people waited for an important event - the death of a loved one being the most obvious, perhaps - but it was up to you to choose which aspect of your melancholy nature you wanted to preserve. When it was done, you sealed the vial and returned it to the museum, where it would be catalogued and then put on display, with millions of others.’