What a busy week for books in my life. A book review for Virago, then a follow up title by the same author and a book club evening.
by Josephine Hart
Ingrid and her Husband,
Martyn and Anna,
Sally and Jonathan,
Anna and Aston
Ingrid's Husband and Anna.
'A good husband, a good father and a good son'.
With a beautiful wife and a seemingly perfect family our unnamed narrator takes the reader on a journey to the very edge of hell. Exploring the human traits of love, lust, obsession, adultery and incest this is a shocking and absorbing read. Economic but powerful word usage convinces the reader of the strength of destructive and overwhelming relationships.
Anna, initially can be seen as a victim. The reader will be drawn to question as to why she acquiesces,is it a form of punishment she is inflicting on herself? Is it atonement? As the narrative develops she becomes a femme fatale, bonding and ensnaring her male subjects like a black widow spider. Her predatory nature and the webs she spins entangle the characters and the reader with her neurotoxic venom.
The male characters , so beautifully drawn pose their own questions. How can a man with so perfect a life submit himself so freely to its destruction without remorse? Possession and freedom become inter-twinned for more than one of the men .Are they victims or perpetrators ?
Every sentence is filled with absorbing suspense and shocking undercurrents as the book builds towards it climax, the pre- wedding night. Events unfold almost in slow-motion whilst Martyn and his father become Icarus and Daedalis, and Anna rather than the glorious sun continues to becomes a much darker evil force.
This book, on a par with Of Human Bondage by W.Somerset Maugham leaves me to quote by way of a question :
'Had he not seen also the simplest pattern, that in which a man was born, worked, married, had children and died, was likewise the most perfect?' W.Somerset Maugham.
It leaves the reader with more questions than answers. If you read this at night- prepare not to sleep as you will need to finish it. You, like Ingrid will want Martyn back, but you will need to read the book to find out what happens to him.
Virago has a dedicated page on their site for book discussion and I would urge anyone to join. If you live near London their book evenings are always a lively affair, with wine, cake and chat on a chosen title.http://www.viragobooks.net/
In the local book club we read Surfacing by Margaret Atwood, another Virago, and in the case of my copy a vintage green copy. The dis-embodied head perhaps a symbol of how dis-associated the central character was from the body of society. It did help having a native Canadian in the group to put a few of the cultural references into perspective. All in all , a good evening , with strong women exploring the breakdown of a wild woman in the wilds in Canada.
Then to round off the week a book just leap frogs its way over ' beside the bedside' into the reading section- I pick up Pure by Andrew Miller and visit Paris , 1785.
The cat, well, as you can see has had a busy week dreaming. He has chosen John Steinbeck. Is he dreaming Of Mice and Men?