Frank, unpretentious, lucid, with the feel almost of a diary yet so carried forward by the fluid style that it reads at a pace. The early pages encaps...moreFrank, unpretentious, lucid, with the feel almost of a diary yet so carried forward by the fluid style that it reads at a pace. The early pages encapsulate so much of the back story without needing to linger or digress at the expense of the narrative so that I felt immediately involved and on board with the candid first person style.
The facts need no dressing as we witness the emotional distance between the narrator, Bridie, who has lost her real father to be adopted by the good "Dad Joe" as she affectionately calls her foster father, but who also passes into the hands of Joe's resentful and jealous wife, Millie, named with something far affection as "Mean" Millie. Millie is consumed with jealousy because Bridie's love for her adoptive 'Dad', the angst clear from Millie's nickname for the child in her care "Little Miss Nobody". Bridie's feeling of being unwanted is intensified when Mean Millie's son, Andy, not only bullies Bridie but seems almost to get his mother's approval in doing so.
We have to remember that this is not just domestic discord, for Bridie has early lost both her mother and her father while the world in which she might have found sanctuary is, with the exception of Dad Joe, a cauldron of jealousy, resentment and rejection - "Thank God, you're not mine... I'd be ashamed to claim you," Mean Millie reminds the hapless child. The effect on Bridie is simply - yet quite beautifully - expressed when we view her, alone with Dad Joe after he has returned from sea and they go down to the seashore together.
Of the incessant ebb and flow, Bridie finds the sea "Frightening, majestic, terrible, it never stopped, it was never still, yet looking over its vastness, I felt stillness in my soul. It was a paradox I would never understand." Nor shall I, but at least Bridie enjoyed that stillness and brings it closer to the reader.
Themes universal, and we feel the echo of the author's opening quote from Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality, but the treatment bears the stamp of a genuinely individual writer who carries conviction with her sheer sincerity of observation and absence of any false sentiment - the whole making a quiet impact rather than a hollow or deafening ring that might have announced itself, like an unfortunate marriage getting too close to a church bell.
And so the need for a truer sense of identity and bonding, first as a daughter to her surrogate Dad, Joe, and then to her lover, Ryan, who is so often distanced from her as he takes up "his lonely sojourn on a lighthouse far from humanity". Bridie's isolation is gradually built and is the more powerfully made when the lighthouse once again visits upon Bridie's life a deeper and more painful loss.
The narrative is masterfully condensed so that the reader can be propelled forward in time often with a few very judicious brush strokes, events nevertheless seamlessly pieced together. In this way, while absorbed by the dialogue in which, from the beginning, we see the conflicts for Bridie between she and those who resent her, and by which Dad Joe deftly relates to Bridie the circumstances of her early losses, we can still easily glean the wood for the trees as promised in the synopsis, without ever quite knowing how the ending is going to come, until, with an emotional crescendo, it does.
At times the frequency of marriages wrecked or floundering on the rocks seems to make divorce so commonplace that we might become numbed to the hurt a...moreAt times the frequency of marriages wrecked or floundering on the rocks seems to make divorce so commonplace that we might become numbed to the hurt and desolation that can really follow, particularly for the more vulnerable of the duo. When Edith is abandoned by her career-obsessed husband, Brett, to be left with her totally unstable and alcoholic son, Cliffie, and her demanding/virtually incontinent 'Uncle-in-law', George, she still strives to keep hope in her life by writing for magazines and numbing her sensibility on the domestic routine. The diary of her almost deified version of Cliffie; the fantasy and delusion with which she daily tries to lie to herself about the degeneration of her son, the real Cliffie, is as poignant - because truly observed - as anything I have read in Highsmith, a writer for whom I've always had the greatest admiration.
As in her The Glass Cell and to some extent in Edith's Diary, Highsmith excels at the slow spinning of a yarn which nevertheless kept me on board. Tom'...moreAs in her The Glass Cell and to some extent in Edith's Diary, Highsmith excels at the slow spinning of a yarn which nevertheless kept me on board. Tom's acquaintance with the "Odd Pair" as he christens the over-watchful neighbours in Fontaineblue, is masterfully unravelled to pinpoint his mounting fear of being detected in his trail of wrongdoings. Rather like her Tom in The Talented Mr Ripley, the author laces the tale with brilliantly interwoven local detail, both of scene and setting, and I again found this a winning combination as I watched Tom now quietly living in luxury at his château at Villeperce. The creeping sense of his detection and undoing is ever-present yet never fully realised until I was caught up in the narrative, hook, line and sinker.(less)
One of the most thorough and searching analyses I have read, starting with the ancient Greek philosophers, Parmenides and Anaxagoras and taking the re...moreOne of the most thorough and searching analyses I have read, starting with the ancient Greek philosophers, Parmenides and Anaxagoras and taking the reader right up to twentieth century linguistic philosophy of which Russell himself made such a fundamental contribution.
Although Woodforde often liberally sprinkles his diary with uneventful minutia about his personal dietary preferences and the domestic round, I was in...moreAlthough Woodforde often liberally sprinkles his diary with uneventful minutia about his personal dietary preferences and the domestic round, I was intrigued by the sheer unadorned candour of his entries which make the man almost endearing across the centuries. Diary of a Country Parson, 1758-1802(less)
Opening just before the First World War and focusing on the affluent poet Cecil Valance and his lover George, the narrative unravels to the point wher...moreOpening just before the First World War and focusing on the affluent poet Cecil Valance and his lover George, the narrative unravels to the point where George's sister, Daphne, becomes entranced with Cecil - not having yet understood his sexual leaning. This is masterfully done until we come to the central significance of the poem Valance places in her autograph book and to which hook the author attaches plenty of narrative coats. For me, Hollinghurst's exploration of overlapping sexualities is the fascination of this book; his observation of character, particularly through internal monologue, being handled with some really illuminating and therefore refreshing insights.
"This is Java... where she can shut down the chatter in her mind...and in that stillness, touch that place deep inside her which is silent..." I felt t...more"This is Java... where she can shut down the chatter in her mind...and in that stillness, touch that place deep inside her which is silent..." I felt the author was achieving inner stillness in her sharp and sensuous opening description of the lush setting and, already, knew I was in the hands of a writer with whose sensibility I wanted to abide throughout the book - particularly when coupled with the intriguing plot. In the opening dialogue, brisk and pacey, I liked the idea that Tiina could be 'half' human, which set my mind in a turmoil of imagining as to what form and function the other half could assume. Now beyond middle age, I'm not sure that I would have relished giving Tiina a kiss... perhaps 30 years ago I could have taken - like Yudi - being launched into the air to fall painfully on my coccyx for the privilege, but now, despite her evident charms, I'd think I'd find more pleasure in a cup of Darjeeling. Her comment, 'Now we are over the initial pleasantries' made me smile and returns me to my first comment that something in the style, the voice, made me want to abide with Laxmi Hariharan's story.(less)