The story is set in Saigon in the 1930s, and describes the tumultuous affair between a relatively poor adolescent French girl and her wealthy, older Chinese lover. Interspersed between details of their clandestine meetings are descriptions of the unnamed narrator’s mother – headmistress of a girls’ high school and prone to bouts of depression, and her wayward brothers. Continue reading
Here’s my year in books (with thanks to the Goodreads record keeping tool): Continue reading
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I began Sara Stridsberg’s The Gravity of Love, a story about a Swedish psychiatric hospital*. What I got was a mesmerizing, beautifully written and sometimes alarming story, told predominantly through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Jackie, the daughter of one of the hospital’s patients, Jim. Jim is an alcoholic with a suicide-wish –
‘He has made up his mind to die, again. He announces it, in so many words, as soon as he comes through the door… “I don’t want to be old, Jackie. There’s nothing left to live for.” He has come to Stockholm to say goodbye… and asked for my blessing; and I have given it to him because I generally give him what he asks for. I have always been silenced by his presence, all thought inside me erased.’
The narrative moves back and forth in time and throughout, there’s an ethereal quality to the writing. Vignettes – of twilight hours, a fur coat, a broken string of beads, a curiosity shop, a doctor who may be as mad as his patients, and trees in the park – are stitched together with Stridsberg’s tremendously lovely words.
‘The stars seemed to have slipped slightly in the sky, and in the darkness we hear the ocean’s breathing, which never stops, the heavy waves beating against the shore before they draw back into the deep.’ Continue reading
I continued my theme of reading ‘art thrillers’* with The Muse by Jessie Burton.
The story begins in 1967, in London, where Odelle Bastien, a budding writer from Trinidad, gets a job as a typist at a well-known art gallery. Her boss, the elegant Marjorie Quick, takes a special interest in Odelle and her writing. Meanwhile, Odelle meets Lawrie Scott, a young man who has inherited a mysterious painting – the masterpiece, Quick believes, of a Spanish artist called Isaac Robles.
The history of the painting takes the story to a village in southern Spain in 1936, where Olive Schloss is living with her art dealer father and her glamorous but troubled mother. Although Olive is a painter of considerable talent, her father dismisses women as artists.
“Was the difference between being a workaday painter and being an artist simply other people believing in you, or spending twice as much money on your work? As far as Olive saw it, this connection of masculinity with creativity had been conjured from the air and been enforced, legitimised and monetised by enough people for whom such a state of affairs was convenient – men like her father.” Continue reading
I think, if they were being brutally honest, most people would give Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman two stars. But you throw an extra star Watchman’s way because it’s Harper Lee. And because we all know those arseholes published this book against her long-held wish.
But I have no qualms about my three star rating because I pulled the right rein and listened to this book. Yes, the words are still the same but when they’re spoken in Reese Witherspoon’s smooth-as-molasses Southern drawl, it’s a very lovely story to hear. Continue reading
The Good People, Hannah Kent’s second novel, tells the story of three women living in a remote Irish valley in 1825. Nora Leahy, a widow, is burdened with the care of her grandson, Michael. The boy cannot walk or speak and Nora has kept him hidden from neighbours, fearing they will believe him a ‘changeling’ (someone who has been abducted by fairies). Nora employs a young girl, Mary, to care for Michael but as the child becomes increasingly difficult to manage, Nora seeks the help of Nance Roche, an old woman known as a doctress –
“The keener. The handy woman… She was both the woman who brought babies to safe harbour in the world, and the siren that cut boats free of their anchors and sent them into the dark.
…she stood in for that which was not and could not be understood. She was the gatekeeper at the edge of the world. The final human hymn before all fell to wind and shadow and the strange creaking of stars.“ Continue reading
Sample Saturday is when I wade through the eleventy billion samples I have downloaded on my Kindle. I’m slowly chipping away and deciding whether it’s buy or bye. Continue reading