Wednesday 28 December 2011

Post-holiday post on a Wednesday morning...

Against my better judgment, I will write a post today.  I'm feeling less-than-inspired, and I may be coming down with the flu, as I'm a bit achy all over, but I figured a hot cup of chai tea and some book talk may make me feel better!  Be prepared, this may be a shorter post than usual.

So I finished The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright last week.  It didn't take long to read, as it is a short book, but it is an example of what I described in an earlier post, a short book that seems much longer because it says so much more that you think is possible to say in just 229 pages.  I remember when I first started it and, at the end of that reading session, looked down at the bottom of the page - only on page 49!  I felt like I had read so much more than just 49 pages.  It is the story of Gina, an Irish woman in her 30s who is describing the process of having an affair with Sean.  After reading this book, I absolutely do not want to have an affair, she paints such a stark picture of the shifting emotions, the people involved, and the realities of such a situation.  She is a brilliant writer.  I will just take a few quotations from random pages of this book.  When describing a scene of the group at the beach, before the affair begins, she writes:  "Sean gave me the full flat of his face, as if to ask if I had some problem with the body of his wife.  But I had no problem with it, why should I?  I had problems enough of my own." (26)  Or when Gina is helping out at a gathering:  "I could feel it, still there under my hands:  thick blown glass with swirls, in the base, of cobalt blue.  Such a beautiful jug.  And then I let it go." (44)  Or when she describes her feelings after her first intimate encounter with Sean:  "My adultery - I don't know what else to call it - lingered in my bones; a slight ache as I walked, the occasional, disturbing trace of must... I also felt, as I went to pack and face the dreaded Sean, that the whole business was a little disappointing, let's face it - as seismic moral shifts go."  (36-37)  Her way of describing situations, in just the way we would not normally describe them, seems at once jarring and also perfect.  And although the novel is set in Ireland and the writer is Irish, there is nothing distinctly "Irish" about the writing, no Irish slang or turns of phrases;  it could be taking place anywhere.  I don't know what else to say about this novel, except that I highly recommend it.  In tone, it reminded me, as least at the beginning, of Anne-Marie MacDonald's Fall On Your Knees, in that she speaks directly to the reader as she describes a scene, then says she's getting ahead of herself, rewrites her description, and takes the reader back to a time before the scene to put it in context.  It also reminded me a bit of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, probably because it begins at a BBQ where there is a first encounter, an event that will change the lives of the individuals involved. 

I'm now trying to get through Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, which is my next book group selection.  It is interesting and very well-written, but it is so slow and intense that I find I can only read a few pages at a time.  It tells the story of a group of people in an unnamed Latin American country who are gathered for the birthday party of a prominent Japanese businessman at which a famous soprano is performing.  These people are taken hostage by a group of terrorists, and the rest of the novel describes the events that follow this hostage-taking.  Upon further research, I discovered that this novel is based on a real hostage-taking situation that occurred in I think Peru in 1997, although I can't quite recall the details at this time.  The author takes us into the thoughts of each individual as they play out their part in this situation, which, as I said before, I am finding intense and exhausting to read.  I'm about one-third of the way through, and I have about 10 days before we meet, so I will plan to read about 25 pages each day to get through it in time for the meeting.  That should still leave me with enough time to also prepare some background information on the real situation upon which this novel is based, as well as some information on the author.

OK, I'll close for today.  While I don't really feel better, I certainly don't feel worse, so I guess the tea and book talk have helped!

Bye for now!

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