Yeny 's Reviews > Before the Poison

Before the Poison by Peter Robinson
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Mar 23, 2012

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Read from March 23 to 31, 2012

An old mansion in Yorkshire countryside linked a woman’s public punishment to a man’s secret crime - two lives, sixty years apart, intertwined to become a story of loss and love. This is what Before the Poison is to me.

There is no serial killer to stop, there is no conspiracy to uncover, and there is simply no sense of urgency in the story. All those who were involved in the “murder” were either dead or really old. What’s the rush? So I followed the author’s lead and enjoyed all the references to food, wine, music, movies, and books, vicariously living a stranger’s daily life through the author’s words. I then got used to the leisurely pace and liked the atmosphere – dark and brooding. Atmospheric. One night, Chris was sipping his wine reading Grace’s life, I was drinking my tea reading his life, so I felt a chill up my spine. I wanted to turn and look – who is reading mine?

Notes –
1. The climax, or the link connecting Chris and Grace, came so suddenly and went away quickly. It does make me question: can you kill out of love? Any kind of love?

2. Grace’s journal turned out to be my favorite part of the book. It was kind of slow and unrelated to the story when it started. But it drew me in gradually. Some parts are terrifying, some heartbreaking. There are so many novels telling stories about WWII! Peter Robinson shifted his attention to South East Asia. Yes people over there died in the war too. Their sufferings were also real and their tragedies painful. Through Grace’s journal, we got a glimpse of the harrowing experience of those victims.

3. What is Patriotic Duty? Can we really have world peace when we all get busy in being patriotic? Is it a hero’s reason? Or, a coward’s excuse?

4. The Birds does not have music.

Quotes –
1. P.98 – Beckett wrote: “They give birth bestride a grave, the light gleams an instant, then its night once more.” That instant, and the things we do to fill it, the way we try to grasp who we are, why we are, the love we give and the cruelties we inflict. That instant is a lifetime.

(Very zen-ish reflection. Reminds me of Diamond Sutra--
Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning, a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.
So is all conditioned existence to be seen. )

2. P.255 – Grace: I could never have imagined that anyone could be so cruel. I do not think I have ever hated anyone as much in my life as I hated them at that moment.

(This is how one loses one’s innocence.)

3. P.271 – Chis: I realized that this odd feeling I was experiencing was happiness. Simple happiness at being alive. It came for no special reason and definitely not from any sense of accomplishment or achievement.

(Real happiness comes from within. It is futile if we search outwards.)

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