Jill's Reviews > Postcards from No Man's Land

Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers
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's review
Apr 18, 2012

liked it

Loved the first half. Then things started to fizzle out. Maybe the speed of the story changed at some point in there. Interesting incorporation of euthanasia--I agree with a lot of the things that were said along those lines.

"It is when success seems to be almost in your grasp that you become aware of how fragile is human existence, and of the unending possibility, almost the inevitability, of failure. And this makes you hesitate."

"At first I was squeamish, but I discovered then how quickly you learn to cope with terrible things if you have no choice."

"Why was it that he never knew whether he liked something till it was over, never quite knew what he thought till it didn't matter anymore?"

"Sometimes you live more life in an hour than in most weeks, and sometimes it is possible to live more in a few weeks than in all the rest of your life."

"...when it came to making the final decision and taking the responsibility, I didn't want to do it. I longed instead for someone to decide for me. At one and the same time, both a failure of love and a demand of love."

"Here is memory. For me now there is only memory. Memory and pain. All life is memory. Pain is of now, forgotten as soon as gone. But memory lives. And grows. And changes too. Like the clouds I can see through my window. Bright and billowy sometimes. Blanketing the sky sometimes. Storm-tossed sometimes. Thin and long and high sometimes. Low and gray and brooding sometimes. And sometimes not there at all, only the cloudless blue, so peaceful, so endless. So longed for. But let us not talk of death. Only of clouds. Always the same and yet never the same. Uncertain. Unreliable, therefore. Unpredictable."

"He would like to be on his own, to give his soul time to catch up with his body...But there didn't seem much chance of that for a while."

"Determination gathered in him, felt like a force field round his spine, that he would not turn away from whatever he found or hold it off, but accept it. enter into it. And to do this for his own sake. For the sake of his self-respect." If only it were possible to keep that determination going for more than a few weeks. The trick, I think, is figuring out how to make it last for the duration of the hardship. I don't know that it is.

"...somehow his death didn't end their love but sealed it forever."

"Time, time! Suddenly everything seemed to be about time. A life-time. Time for this, time for that. The time of your life. A time to live. No time left. A time to die."

An Ode by Ben Johnson:
It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make Man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry bald, and sere:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night;
It was the plant and flower of Light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.

"Later he told me he was cursing himself for allowing himself to relax during the last few days when we should have planned what to do in such an emergency. But they were days, he said, when he had felt suspended, out of time, out of place, with no past and no future, only an endless, self-contained, charmed, timeless time. But now the spell was broken."

"...in the evening and especially while I lay in bed during the following night, I felt my deprivation. Felt his absence in the house, in the bedroom next to mine. He was not there for me to sit with after the day's work. He was not there during the night to listen for should he need help. He was not there in the morning, alone in his room for me to wake with our tender ritual...it was only then as I lay in my bed that the tears came."

"Photographs were no more than a trace of shadow, not the thing itself, not the person. There in front of him, tow body lengths away and his own height below, was a reality. The body...but not the man. In some way he had never faced before, never thought of before, he knew at once that what was left of the man, what was essential of him, was not under the ground with the physical remains."

Lance-Corporal Harry Smith:
"Even today it is hard to explain the feeling, but something seems to come over me, I go withdrawn and want to be by myself and keep quiet for days. Then my mind--or should I say myself--all of a sudden goes back...Then, after thinking things out as to what might have happened, or if this should have happened or that should have happened, I seem to worry something terrible for a while before i slowly return to myself."

"In the moment it took to read her son's letter this mature, experienced, dominant woman disintegrated as if the yarn that held the garment of her self together had been pulled out and she had unraveled into a tangle of twisted thread."

"Mr. Wesseling was of course upset, but took it better than his wife and with optimism...As for his wife, at first he regarded her withdrawal with the same down-to-earth acceptance. He was not an imaginative man, but phlegmatic and fatalistic. For him always, things were as they were, that was life, and you did well to make the best of it...So when his wife took to her room, he shrugged it off as merely a woman's reaction to bad news..."

"...it seemed to us that all our lives were there with us in that makeshift secret room. As that favorite poem I mentioned earlier puts it: "In short measures life may perfect be." There is no more. There can be nothing better. The two hours or so which Jacob and I spent together that night were a measure of perfection."

"I felt guilty, as if I'd killed her. Or I hadn't done all I could to make her happier. Or tell her how much I loved her. So maybe it's always going to be bad for the friends and the family, however a person dies. My opinion is that we should be allowed to die...With dignity. But more...with dignity and integrity."

"When the static had settled, Ton began clearing the table and preparing to wash up. Jacob knew he should help, but a heaviness came on him, as if his body had been pumped full of air the weight of stone."

"Tessel's visit left him restless. He could settle to nothing. Couldn't read. Music irritated him, writing was impossible, might even, he felt, make him spew. Even though he wanted to write to Geertrui, left he ought to, and say whatever he could while there was still time, now that he knew. But say what? There was too much to say."

"...people should take part in making the decision about their death, and some people can't because they aren't capable any longer...That's why we should make up our minds about what we want while we're still young and capable. And we should sign a proper legal document that's a record of what we've decided...If I'm knocked down in the street, for instance, and never become conscious again, or get ill from some disease that makes me not able to think, or something like that. I have a Euthanasiepas, which I carry around with me...Its just like a passport."

"...this is the time of my life I hold most dear. Six weeks. link and it is gone. Yet it is longer in memory and fuller with memories than many of the years between then and now. It is the time I shall die thinking of. Of him then. Of Jacob, my beloved Jacob."

"The only way I got through, the only way I survived, was by living moment to moment, second by second of the day and the night. There was only now. This instant. Allowing nothing else. No memories. No thoughts of tomorrow. Away from Jacob, I locked myself inside myself, threw myself into the work to e done so that the time away from him would pass as quickly as possible and whatever happened would affect me as little as possible. Then, back with him in the hiding place...I...concentrated only on him, poured myself into him. there is no other way I know how to put it than to say: He was the whole world to me. The strangest time, the most intense I have ever known. How could my time with Jacob ever be surpassed? Ever equaled? And life being what it is, how could it last? Of course, it did not."
"Love is blind, they say, and there is none so blind as those who will not see. So the world was as we wished it to be; and if by some mischance it were not, why then, we would make it so. But bubbles are easily burst. We were very lucky ours remained intact for as long as it did."


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