Thoughts: Vera

vera

I finally made use of my kindle again, for the disconcerting reason of not having any unread novels at my place. This has never happened to me before, and frankly, I’m still a bit shocked. But since I only moved to my current place for the first semester and am moving again (at least in the same city) soon, I only packed one small box of books. And then I found out I was out of unread books at night on a weekend…well I’m so happy there are great free e-books and that I own a kindle. Deciding on one book wasn’t easy, but I finally started Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim. I had this vague notion of having read a short story by her about Germans and a pension- and then realized that was Katherine Mansfield! And then after googling von Arnim I remembered why I had never tried her works, it’s the plants. I like flowers in my home, but other than that gardens and plants and such are not really my thing. Luckily, Vera is a plant-lite book. So, Vera is my first von Arnim experience and I have to say I absolutely loved her writing and characterization and want to try another one soon (Any recommendations? I thought of trying Fräulein Schmidt next).

Vera is about Lucy Entwistle, who is vacationing with her father, when he suddenly dies. Then, she meets Everard Wemyss, who has just lost his wife under tragic circumstances, and they bond, fall in love and get married. That sounds all very romantic complete with a happy ending, but that’s actually only the first part of the novel. It gets very much darker, and quite sad after that. I’m horrible with spoiler warnings, simply forget about them when I want to discuss a book, but even if I won’t reveal the ending, if you don’t want to know more about what happens and why the tone gets darker, better stop reading, I guess.

When Lucy and Wemyss get married, she comes to learn that her husband is controlling, has a temper and sulks like a child. She is still very much in love with him, but his character makes it nearly impossible to hold onto those feelings. Having only recently lost a father who protected Lucy, she is very much an innocent, and in part relishes Wemyss’ protectiveness. But he infantilizes her, calls her his “little one” and his “baby” (part of what first attracted him to Lucy was her girlish hairstyle and that she looked so young, much younger than her 22 years) and will not allow her any time to herself or make any decisions.

As Lucy mostly fell in love, because she understood Wemyss to be as bereaved as she was, she is horrified that he takes her to the house where his first wife died and never even thought of changing anything and later flatly refuses to. Thus, Vera, named after the first wife, is somewhat of a forerunner to DuMaurier’s Rebecca. The books are completely different, and yet like in Rebecca, Vera’s presence seems to linger. Thus, Lucy has to eat under the watchful gaze of the life-sized portrait of Wemyss’ first wife and her room is now Lucy’s. However, there is no Mrs. Danvers and as her husband turns out to be a completely different person and the love is difficult to hold onto, Lucy rather takes comfort in Vera’s lingering presence (for Vera was married to Wemyss for 15 years).

I really enjoyed the way Lucy was only first portrayed as somewhat simple, the intellectual circle of her father and their discussions were something she never felt part of and freely admits to finding their arguments too difficult to comprehend and too exhausting to follow. But, Wemyss, whom she first considers so wonderful, because he likes to keep things simple and has a clear-cut black and white view of the world, completely resistant to change, begins to feel strange to her and Lucy comes to realize the importance of ideas and discussions for herself. I really liked that she wasn’t simple, but instead grew when she finally experienced life outside of her father’s influence, even if her marriage is hell. Wemyss in contrast is basically a bully and the baby he always calls his wife.

The other character of importance is Lucy’s aunt, a spinster, who wants the best for Lucy, but also feels that as an old spinster, she cannot decide for her young niece who is so in love. While the smart, spinster aunt is a stereotypical figure, I really appreciated how von Arnim’ characterization of her was complex, even if she provides readers with something of a heroine character, who we can cheer for and sympathize with. Because that is not really possible with Lucy, who is trapped in a marriage, and not really the person to take a stand and be decisive. Lucy’s portrayal is great exactly because of that, but I still appreciated Miss Entwistle.

One other thing I loved, von Arnim knows how books should be treated! Absolutely loved this passage:

“She was accustomed to the most careless familiarity in intercourse with books, to books loose everywhere, books overflowing out of their shelves, books in every room, instantly accessible, friendly books, books used to being read aloud, with their hospitable pages falling open at a touch.”

(The context: Wemyss has a library of books he doesn’t read, what matters is that they are the best and most expensive editions and he keeps them behind glass doors, which he keeps locked with only him having the key.)

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Thoughts: Some Tame Gazelle

Last weekend I read Barbara Pym’s first novel, Some Tame Gazelle. I think I’ve read two other books by her but I honestly cannot remember. But I know I’ve at least read her Excellent Women which made me an instant Barbara Pym fan.

Some Tame Gazelle is typically set in an English village, sometime during the 1950s. The two spinster sister Belinda and Harriet Bede are like all Pym’s ‘excellent’ women, and help a lot in the parish. Belinda has been in love with the village’s eccentric married archdeacon Henry Hoccleave, while Harriet regularly refuses proposals of marriage from an Italian gentleman and focuses her attention on the village’s newest curate. Visits from a librarian and an African bishop disturb their lives.

This first novel is as wonderful as the excellent Excellent Women, but much funnier and less bittersweet. And while the story may appear simply charming and quaint at first, Pym has a wicked sense of humor, which made me read the whole thing in one afternoon.

Belinda and Harriet are very different. While Belinda is reserved and proper, Harriet is plump, fashionable and cheerful. Belinda also shares a love for 18th century poetry and sermons with the archdeacons and she often rummages around the house humming hymns. Of course, being a spinster in the 1950s may often have been only marginally more fun than in the late 19th century, but Pym presents the sisters as happy and far from lacking in romance. Belinda’s love for the archdeacon might have made her extremely happy, had it not become “like a warm, comfortable garment, bedsocks, perhaps, or even woollen combinations; certainly something without glamour or romance”. Indeed, the more we learn of Henry, the more we sympathize with his wife Agatha and come to feel that Belinda has actually been lucky.

The other villagers are also quite funny and even though they are types, they are somehow still believable. One of my favorite parts is when the congregation is listening to one of the elaborate and fear-inducing sermon of the archdeacon about the coming of judgement day, and their thoughts about not wanting to feel that could be tomorrow, or that scientists had proven that it wouldn’t happen!
Pym observes their ‘small’ lives with its pains and pleasures, and her commentary is wicked and yet not mean. I’m pretty sure Pym novels are the type of books that many people feel lack action and real plot (probably not many of my readers though), but there is so much going on, it just happens on a smaller scale, which does not make it any less important or true.

Some of my favorite passages:

“On the threshold of sixty,’ mused Dr. Parnell. ‘That’s a good age for a man to marry. He needs a woman to help him into the grave.”
“Of course it’s alright for librarians to smell of drink.”
“Belinda waited. She doubted now whether it would be possible to be back for tea at four o’clock. She could hardly break away when the Archdeacon was about to deliver an address on the mortality of man.”
“But surely liking the same things for dinner is one of the deepest and most lasting things you could possibly have in common with anyone,’ argued Dr. Parnell. ‘After all, the emotions of the heart are very transitory, or so I believe; I should think it makes one much happier to be well-fed than well-loved.”
“The trouble was that Miss Prior wasn’t entirely the meek person one expected a little sewing woman to be. Belinda had two feelings about her- Pity and Fear, like Aristotle’s Poetics, she thought confusedly.”
“…the sermon was at an end. There was quite a stir in the congregation, for some of them had been dreaming gay dreams most of the morning, although many of them had given the sermon a chance, and had only allowed their thoughts to wander when it had passed beyond their comprehension.”

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Review: The Magic Toyshop

Short post today, I have so much reading to do (uni, but still fun), I can’t seem to concentrate on one book enough to write down my thoughts in a manner that will make sense to people not in my head. So apologies for my ramblings but since I am reading Virago books for Virago Reading Week I still wanted to share.

Angela Carter’s works have been on my radar for ages but so far I’ve always chickened out of actually reading anything by her. But this is a new year and I’ve recently gotten over my intimidation of Rushdie, so when I saw that Rachel and Carolyn are hosting a Virago Reading Week, it seemed like the perfect occasion to delve into Carter’s world.

Starting a book with a lot of preconceived notions is nearly always a problem, but I’m happy to say that I was not disappointed. The Magic Toyshop is completely amazing though not nearly as disturbing or weird as I expected. It’s foremost a coming of age story, namely that of 15-year-old Melanie who discovers and relishes in her newfound sexuality. However, when she and her siblings are suddenly orphaned, Melanie is confronted with the darker side of human interactions and sexuality. While she is at home, Melanie is free to explore her sexuality (going as far as to perform in front of a mirror), but when she and her siblings move to their uncle’s place in south London, she and her body seem to become something of a territory to be explored and conquered by men. There is Finn, whom she is both repelled by and attracted to, and of course her uncle who tries to exert control over her by deciding over her clothes, her speech and finally by trying to re-enacting Leda and the Swan.

The use of speech in this novel is certainly interesting. Uncle Philip uses it as a means of control; Melanie is told only to speak when addressed directly, and her aunt  has fled or been suppressed into speechlessness and has to use writing as a means of communication. The uncle does seem to prefer his family to be as silent as his puppets and suppressing their speech is one way of putting strings on his family. Uncle Philip’s love for his puppets is pretty creepy, as are the puppets. And I don’t know how weird that makes me, but I really expected there to be more to them (like being murdered people made into puppets. Should probably stop reading Joyce Carol Oates’ short stories).

What I also loved was Carter’s ability to create such atmospheric prose. It’s nearly lyrical in places but never too flowery or merely decorative. Are all her novels like that? I read that this was one of her earlier works, so I really want to see what she went on to achieve. The Magic Toyshop is amazing, but I think that aspects of power relations, gender and those dark and twisty instances of magical realism could be more pronounced.

For my second Virago read this week I chose Mad, Bad and Sad which is great so far. I’m happy I read The Female Malady last year, so now I can compare how Appignanesi and Showalter approach the subject (and I can nod knowledgeably when names and theories I’m familiar with pop up 😉 ).

What are you reading this week?

 

Other thoughts:

Things Mean A Lot

Verity’s Virago Venture

Another Cookie Crumbles

Lovely Trees Reads

 

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

Review: Jamaica Inn

 

Ever since I read Rebecca, I wanted to try another novel by Daphne Du Maurier, and the winter season seems to fit her atmospheric suspenseful works perfectly. Over Christmas I read Jamaica Inn along with Jo from Bibliojunkie (cause she scored a load of Du Maurier books, begging to be read 🙂 ), and what a great read it was. Imagine sitting curled up under a quilt, the tea next to you, a white blanket of snow covering everything outside and the book you open begins:

It was a cold grey day in late November. The weather had changed overnight, when a backing wind brought a granite sky and a mizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o’clock in the afternoon the pallor of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist.

This is pretty much why I love cosy reading in autumn and winter so much. And I think that’s also what made me enjoy Jamaica Inn a lot, even though my first Du Maurier was Rebecca which is so perfect in every way that this one could only fall short in comparison. In regard to atmosphere, Jamaica Inn is a triumph. The setting of the wild moors of Cornwall comes to life, with all their danger and excitement, and in the middle of nowhere, Jamaica Inn, the rundown guesthouse where the coaches don’t dare stop anymore and mysterious and sinister things seem to be going on.

The characters are pretty much standard for gothic suspense novels; Mary Yellan, our heroine, is intelligent and courageous but not too much, the landlord who is her uncle is satisfyingly creepy and dangerous. There is also a weak aunt, a vicar and the mandatory love interest (another bad boy, but such fun banter). Characterization is solid but not great, the characters didn’t annoy me but they didn’t stand out either. They are forerunners to the vibrant, intense characters found in Rebecca.

Perhaps I read too many mysteries, but the twist was very obvious (to quote one of my favorite shows, “I heard that one coming from around the corner. It was wearing tap shoes.”). That might be due to the small number of characters, I don’t know, but I still found the novel suspenseful and had to force myself to read slowly and enjoy the world of moors and villains that Du Maurier conjures. It’s really a great book to lose yourself in for a couple of hours and it only made me want to read more by Du Maurier but I think I should pace myself, she won’t be writing any more books! Still, my edition is very tempting as it includes Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek and Cousin Rachel (I’ve been eyeing the last one a lot recently). And though it’s not great for carrying around, this book is actually pretty handy since my family thought I was reading the whole book and so gave me plenty of alone (=reading) time 😀

I didn’t want to say much about the plot, partly because I don’t want to spoil things for those who haven’t read it yet, and partly because the only things I knew about Jamaica Inn before reading it was that it was written by Du Maurier and that it was set in Cornwall, and I think not knowing much about the plot made it a more enjoyable and suspenseful read.

 

Other thoughts:

Bibliojunkie

Things Mean A Lot

A Striped Armchair

Coffee Stained Pages

The Reading Life

Sam Still Reading

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Review: The Lifted Veil

Most of you have probably read something by George Eliot or are familiar with her works. Which ones come to your mind first? Is it The Mill on the Floss or Middlemarch, or Adam Bede or Silas Marner? But George Eliot also wrote The Lifted Veil, a novella that was for some time regarded as the black sheep of her works, as it deals with the pseudosciences. At first it wasn’t published at all, and then only buried between other shorter works of Eliot. It was only in 1924 that The Lifted Veil was published on its own. Embarrassingly enough I haven’t read any Eliot (except for excerpts in lit classes) and so when I found this one on bookmooch, I thought a novella published by Virago couldn’t be the worst place to start reading Eliot. And it wasn’t, although it’s an admittedly odd place to start.

The Lifted Veil tells the story of Latimer, a young man with a poet’s sensitive soul but not the necessary talent. After an illness, Latimer starts having visions and in one of them he sees a young pale woman with fatal eyes. Soon after, he meets her for real in the exact circumstances predicted in his vision. The woman turns out to be his brother’s fiancée, Bertha, and Latimer developes an unhealthy fascination with her.

This novella is written in the tradition of the gothic story. Latimer has visions of the future, accurate ones, and he also develops the ability of reading people’s minds. He has easy access to the feelings and thoughts of the people around him, but Bertha inner-life remains a mystery. Latimer’s obsession with Bertha mainly stems from this inability to read Bertha’s mind and he imagines a warm and good person under her coldness and distance. Latimer is prone to romanticizing life and resents the scientific education that was forced on him. He prefers to enjoy nature without knowing the mechanics behind the flow of water etc. In Bertha, he is confronted with a mystery and he both fears and desires her. Latimer’s fascination with Bertha reminded me of the hypnotizing gaze of a snake, and her fatal and cold eyes are emphasized on numerous occasions. Bertha’s veiled thoughts are too tempting for Latimer even though he experiences more visions of her that warn him. And then the veil is lifted . . . !

This is a very gloomy but atmospheric gothic story. I was exasperated with Latimer but Bertha and the clairvoyance were fascinating. I won’t go into all the symbolism of danger and female sexuality here as it would be too spoiler-y (but would love to discuss with those who’ve read The Lifted Veil!). If you have an hour to spare, do give Eliot’s gothic story a try, it’s about 65 pages and available online.

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

Review: Excellent Women

Barbara Pym´s Excellent Women is set in London in the 1950s and narrated by Mildred Lathbury, an unmarried woman in her thirties. Mildred is one of those excellent gentle women who are always so helpful and always ready to pour tea. She leads a quite life one might say, with church, dinners at the vicarage and tea and boiled eggs, but one that she seems relatively happy with. However, when a young couple moves into the appartment beneath hers, she suddenly finds herself in the middle of lots of other people´s affairs and quite dramatic lives. It isn´t really that Mildred wants to help them sort out their affairs but she is so very capable and people seem to expect this from a spinster.

“I suppose an unmarried woman just over thirty, who lives alone and has no apparent ties, must expect to find herself involved or interested in other people’s business, and if she is a clergyman’s daughter then one might really say there is no hope for her.”

It´s very comical how Mildred goes from leading a quite, independent life to being in the middle of a lot of drama, all of which comes from other people. She has to try and negotiate the Napiers´ marriage, which is quite volatile because Helena has no interest in housework and order but instead focuses on her anthropological work, and the boring and serious anthropologist Everard Boone. And her husband Rockingham has only recently returned from duty in Italy where all he did (and still does) was to e charming. Of course there can only be tension with such a triangle, and especially Rocky and Helena seem to love the drama. Mildred finds herself in the middle of this triangle while each of these three people takes her into their confidence and needs her to do them a favour.

Apart from this, there is also trouble on the home-front so to speak. Mildred has long been friends with the vicar and his sister, but enter Allegra Gray, a beautiful widow who sets her eyes on the vicar and tries to foist his sister on Mildred. Now Mildred is pitied because everyone assumes she wanted to eventually marry him, and she is afraid that the sister will want to move into her appartment, and put an end to Mildred´s independence.

Pym introduces a lot of potential husbands for Mildred, from the charming Rocky to serious Everard Boone, but although Barbara Pym has been compared to Jane Austen, the ending Pym chooses for Mildred might surprise you. But the comparison does make sense in regard to their style of storytelling, the dry wit for example and sharp observation of people´s lives and manners.

I found Excellent Women to be an excellent book, and was pleasantly surprised that Pym manages to explore such themes as postwar England, the lives of unmarried women, and marriage, without making this a depressing and sad book. It is rather comfort reading, and that is mostly due to Pym´s description of everyday life, of small events instead of earth-shattering ones. I wish I had more of these novels, which are quiet, warm-hearted but also have some substance to it. And yes, I drank lots of tea while reading this one!

I can´t believe it has taken me this long to discover the delight of a Pym novel, but now I can hardly wait to read more by her. Any recommendations?


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Review: Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

First things first: This is not THE Elizabeth Taylor (except maybe to hardcore lit fans!? 😉 ), but a very talented and well-known author, and even lauded as the Jane Austen of the 20th century. If you see a copy of this book that has the movie cover, don´t let it scare you off, it´s a wonderful book and I think the cover above does it much more justice.

ANY_CHARACTERS_HERE

On a rainy Sunday in January, the recently widowed Mrs Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel where she will spend her remaining days. Her fellow residents are magnificently eccentric and endlessly curious, living off crumbs of affection and snippets of gossip. Together, upper lips stiffened, they fight off their twin enemies: boredom and the Grim Reaper. Then one day Mrs Palfrey strikes up an unexpected friendship with Ludo, a handsome young writer, and learns that even the old can fall in love… (amazon.com)

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont gives us a glimpse into old age. Some of it applies more to the 1970s, what with people really living in hotels (I don´t think that´s really done anymore, except maybe for rich people in movies), but most of it is universal.  There is Mrs Palfrey´s dismay at her untrustworthy legs, the loneliness, and the fact that they often feel like they are only waiting for death.

Mrs Palfrey is described as looking too big, with huge hands and strong features, and that she would have made a distinguished man. The description of Mrs Palfrey is really not very flattering but I found that this just adds to the authenticity of the character, and Taylor is not afraid of portraying the characters and their life with grim honesty. Her observations are unrelenting and brutal and all the better because of it. However, there is also humour and sometimes even affection for her characters apparent in her writing.

Life at the Claremont consits of almost oppressing boredom and routine. The residents have little to entertain them, the food is always the same, in the evenings they sit down to knit or read or watch tv, and the long afternoons are spent walking by Mrs Palfrey. It is no wonder that they jump at each small diversion, such as the rare visits of relatives. Mrs Palfrey has a grandson in London but he cannot be bothered to visit her, and when she falls while walking and a young man named Ludo shows her kindness, Mrs Palfrey asks him to pretend to be her grandson. With Ludo´s appearance the story becomes a bit more of a comedy, although tragedy is never far away. Mrs Palfrey comes to love Ludo, who gives her attention and a purpose, and Ludo (and his writing) seems to thrive under her care.

Despite the  theme of aging, and Taylor´s unmasking of the sad states of human relationships, this novel is actually at times something of a comfort read. The residents are quite eccentric, and I enjoyed the following the progressing friendship of Mrs Palfrey and Ludo. It´s just fun enough to  not be a depressive read, but this book will stay with you  forsome time after you´ve finished it. I will definitely read more by Elizabeth Taylor!

Some of my favorite passages:

“There was usually a demonstration on Sundays, with milling crowds in Trafalgar Square and forays into Downing Street. The policemen and the horses were always sympathized with. They had the Claremont solidly behind them.” (52)

“If you don´t praise people just sometimes a little early on they die of despair, or turn into Hitlers, you know.´” (61)

“As they aged, the women seemed to become more like old men, and Mr. Osmond more like an old woman.” (68)

“She realized that she never walked now without knowing what she was doing and concentrating upon it; once, walking had been like breathing, something unheeded. The disaster of being old was in not feeling safe to venture anywhere, of seeing freedom put out of reach.” (73)

“She did not explain to him how deeply pessimistic one must be in the first place, to need the sort of optimism she now had at her command.” (98)

“It was hard work being old. It was like being a baby, in reverse. Every day for an infant means some new little thing learned; every day for the old means some little thing lost.” (184)

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Review: The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam

The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam “tells the story of two young sisters, Nyree and Cia O’Callohan, who live on a remote farm in the East of what was Rhodesia in the late 1970s. Beneath the dripping vines of the Vumba rainforest, and under the tutelage of their heretical grandfather, Oupa, theirs is a seductive world laced with African paganism, bastardised Catholicism and the lore of the Brothers Grimm – until their idyll is shattered forever by their orphaned cousin, Ronin” (littlebrown.co.uk).

I should probably warn you all right now that despite the fluffy and fun title, this is not a light book. The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam is most of all a tale about a childhood in Rhodesia of the 1970s, just before it became Zimbabwe under Mugabe. Although there is a prologue from a grown-up Nyree, the story is narrated by her 8 year old self. Nyree is an intelligent child, very close to her younger sister Cia, and makes for a very likable  character and narrator. I especially like how she embedded scoldings and opinions of her mother and Oupa (grandfather) in her narration:

“Oupa is supposed to be helping me with my homework, but he´ll be buggered if he´s going to play governess now on top of being nanny”

Together with Cia, Nyree wanders very freely around her parents farm and the surrounding area. They experience Rhodesia´s wild and dangerous beauty in a way that is both practical (they know all about worms and snakes and watch chickens get butchered) and magical (waiting for their wings to grow so that they can fly with the fairies). They listens constantly to their Oupa´s carelessly racist comments and of course attend an all-white school, but they are intrigued by the African myths and very close to the farm´s main worker Jobe and his wife Blessing.

While their father is off fighting the Terrs (terrorists) and the situation between the Africans and the white settlers gets more and more dangerous, their bastard cousin Ronin arrives on the farm. It is him more than anything who is a danger to their world. The last days of Rhodesia are noticed but not as immediate to them.

Their father is thus only in their lives when he is on leave and it is their Oupa and their mother who are their main influence. Oupa is definitely racist, but in a curiously offhand way, perhaps this comes with growing up that way and viewing his superior position as white farmer as normal. Liebenberg does not excuse his comments or position but she does not make him a weak cardboard character either. Through Nyree´s eyes Oupa is shown to be very attached to his granddaughters although they are no heirs but only “lasses”, and we see that in his age he has not much but his stories to live on, as the country he has known and grown up in is changing and dying.

The children´s mother takes on the role of farm owner and baas (boss) in her husband´s absence and Nyree tells us that her mother changes from the soft, nice-smelling woman into a harder version who commands the workers and wears her husband´s shirts. Through the eyes of a child all these changes are noticed and as readers we can make up our own minds about the causes and effects of absent fathers, working mothers, old grandfathers and the last days of Rhodesia.

The author, Liebenberg, grew up in South Africa and her knowledge and love for the country show through in this novel. The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam is also full of Afrikaans, Rhodesian and Zulu slang, but this adds to the authenticity of the world described and does not make it more difficult to read (there is also an appendix with the translations for these terms).

This is one novel that I can highly recommend, without reservations. In fact, I will need to get my own copy of it as I can see myself rereading it lots of times. I hope I have given you the right impression, this novel is not fluffy, it´s much better in that it does not shy away from darker and more serious topics. The lighthearted moments are still there though, and Liebenberg made me laugh and cry many times.

A few of my favorite passages:

“It´s in his eyes most of all- they´re colourless and polite. After a while, I have to turn away- if I look at that portrait for too long, I can feel Great Grandfather´s ghostly eyes watching. (7)

“Cia has a sort of monkeyish look about her face, a cheekiness that cheats her out of her sweetness, and she has a smile like a Cheshire cat that slits her eyes, so that all up she looks like a wickedly smug little Chinese simian- but cute in a way against which I can´t compete.” (9)

“Oupa is supposed to be helping me with my homework, but he´ll be buggered if he´s going to play governess now on top of being nanny and I can chant the six times table to myself when I´m on the bog, so we sit and hear about the toiling instead.” (13)

“Shrouded in the forest, we are lifted above the grubbiness of chicken slaughters and peanut butter and jam, and are allowed to enter another world- one where things flit on gossamer wings and anything is a mere wish away.” (18)

“Adults say all sorts of pious and noble things about the wisdom of age and whatnot, but in truth, for old folks, it´s like their story has ended before they have, and all that´s left is the re-telling, (except they´re not heard or even seen by the ones whose time it is, instead they´re seen only by us, the ones whose time has not yet come), until the book finally closes on yesterday´s story. (133)

“The day has a sort of glow about the edges. Perfect. I feel it searing onto my brain the way something does when you know you´ll always remember it.” (168)

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