Tuesday, 25 July 2017
Is there a great love for every one of us - a love that will alter our lives and who we are? Can another person have such an impact on another person's character? What is it that happens to us when we fall in love with another person - do we change and if so, is it for the better...?
Human relationships are at the very heart of this novel set before and after the Second World War, and leading up to the present day. Crummey perfectly presents us with vibrant characters and cleverly makes us care for their welfare as they collide with one another and their lives become entangled. There is a young couple from divided Catholic and Protestant communities in a small Newfoundland town, and a Canadian Soldier and his Japanese prison guard, whose lives are as bound up together as are the lives of the young lovers. Crummey considers how lovers and enemies mark us in this life, how encounters can scar us and leave us reeling for years after, struggling to regain our ballast. There are people that we never get over meeting - some people whose voices we can never evacuate from our heads - this book deals with those human interactions. There have been endless encounters that have effected my life - countless encounters, countless kindnesses, countless cruelties. Aren't we all the same? Grandmothers, aunts, sisters, teachers, pupils, sons and daughters whose comments still ring in my ears years later - and that is just it... How many of our interactions with others are only brief encounters, that reverberate at length in our minds. In Crummey's novel, the male protagonist, Wish, is haunted by a single comment that his girlfriend said to him, "Don't make a whore of me." You can imagine how a young Catholic might find that line particularly jarring, just as he was about to do exactly that. He is also burdened by memories from his time as a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp and later in Nagazaki, when the atom bomb was dropped. The memory of seeing a dead woman with a living infant feeding at her cold breast is just that kind of image that is central to the Catholic preoccupation with the Madonna and child. In fairness, this image is one of the most disturbing of the book, but there are more that I cannot mention here. Crummey has certainly written a love story here - but the novel works on so many levels, symbolism and philosophical questions are never too far from the surface, and that is what makes this text so extraordinary. Expect suffering, great passion, long distances and short conversations, unanswered questions and shocking revelations - presented in the masterful language that we have come to expect from this wonderful writer, and you will have an idea of what 'The Wreckage' has to offer. It's a great book - what else is there to talk about?
If you are prone to dream about those who first inhabited Georgian Dublin, then you will most likely want to shake Andrew Hughes by the hand and thank him for his novel 'The Coroner's Daughter' - for he has kindly done the dreaming for you.
-A must read for Austen fans and Dubliners alike.
Tuesday, 18 July 2017
For a start, did you like your mother? So many of your mothers are weak, distant or dead! It really makes one wonder.
Then there is the great Darcy question... Is he based on a real man? Many question that such a man could exist, but we like to think that he could and in your absence we can imagine that your paths crossed once.
This brings me to my next question: Did you ever know true, requited love? Not with Bigg-Wither or LeFroy, but with one who cherished you for who you are whom you loved in return? I hope you did. During those uncharted years, when we know nothing of your whereabouts, perhaps you found complete happiness, wrote a sequel to Pride and Prejudice and were as carefree as a bird. I wish all these things for you - on this day, when they put your face on the £10 note, when your family kissed you a final goodbye - we think of you and hope that you knew great happiness once - as great as the happiness that you have given to so many around the world. Rest easy, dearest Jane.
Ni bheidh do leithead ann aris.
Saturday, 8 July 2017
In truth, their meeting is crucial: if it goes badly, it'd spell curtains for future peace. Luckily it is a success. Is not this the most hopeful of moments? Doesn't it foretell the inception of the European Union years later? That France and Germany can be such forgiving neighbours in 2017 - after twice facing each other down the barrel of a gun - still surprises me, yet in Doerr's book, it all seems possible. There are incredibly brutal acts perpetrated on both sides, and this book contains some of the most horrific I have ever read. The suffering of German women on the arrival of the Russian troops, as described by Doerr, will haunt me forever. He shirks from nothing - presenting us with the horror of war - experienced on all sides - because these stories must be told.
But this is just a story after all - and Doerr is a master teller of tales. Page upon page of vibrant imagery, beautiful language and characters so real that they must have lived once... make this book one that will keep you just where Doerr wants you, while he re-programmes your mind and shines a light on the truth about WWII. And it suddenly seems to me that Marie-Laure's is not the only blindness at the heart of this novel. And if there is light - the light the we cannot see - well perhaps now is the time to face that light, that kindness, that hope... because after all... 1945 was such a long time ago.