Eccentric Musings (jakaEM)

"I have undergone sharp discipline which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy." Emily Brontë


still figuring this place out - Jen W

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Currently reading

Friend of My Youth
Alice Munro
Progress: 115/288 pages
Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
The Slaves of Solitude - Patrick Hamilton, David Lodge An interesting read after Brooklyn. The Slaves of Solitude (I just wrote that as "salves" of solitude, which would be a very different thing, wouldn't it?) - anyhoo - Miss Roach and TSoS's boarding house are in many ways (but not all ways) polar opposites of Eilis Lacey and her Brooklyn abode, and yet the experience with the one plays really nicely off of the other.

I take note of this weird alchemy that occurs as books go from my to-read to my currently-reading list, because it's been happening to me all year. Another example is going from The Lonely Polygamist's exquisitely-rendered Rusty to Skippy Dies' equally exquisite Ruprecht van Doren - characters of about the same age and of the same geeky outcast-edness; with the same angst and, to me at least, the same huge empathic appeal. Neither was the central character of his respective novel; neither was I expecting to meet and love as I did. Yet there it is.

THEN: from Skippy Dies to Cat's Eye - now, here's a little goodreads trivia question for those of you playing the home game. What weird filament of theme/motif unites THESE two?

Hint: the very first sentence/page of Cat's Eye.

"Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also, and if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backwards in time and exist in two places at once. ...I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another."

Please now to see my review of Skippy Dies written well before I even picked up CE.

HOW FREAKY IS THAT?? (and I swear, while I had read Cat's Eye many many years ago, I did not recall AT ALL the theme of time/space/string theory in it. Hell, I barely remembered the central story line.)

@karen: this is what I thought you meant by a 'reading path.'

And what does this have to do with The Slaves of Solitude? Well, pretty much nothing, except to say that TSoS comes toward the end of a long string of reading, and seems to pull together about a gagillion themes that, I now see, are pretty much constants for me. I seem to be consciously and sub-consciously gravitating towards them:

- war
- loneliness
- characters who are misfits or victims of cruelty
- repressed emotion
- individual change mirroring or foreshadowing societal change

The only thing NOT present here in TSoS is spiritual crisis (not a priest to be found anywhere) - although as David Lodge points out in his introduction, the book does end with an uncharacteristic, but entirely fitting, prayer.

Ok, so this review is a rambling mess of disconnectedness, which is exactly as it should be. So here's why you should read The Salves of Solitude (see, I did it again!):

War. The book takes place at the height of WWII in England, and renders the impact of war, its deprivations and influence on peoples' behaviour, viscerally.

Loneliness. This is now going at the very TOP of my Lonely Hearts Club shelf - it's an exquisite portrayal of a whole gaggle of people trapped in themselves. It's painful, painful, painful to read and watch - but hold out, because there are several moments of triumph at the end.

Misfits, victims of cruelty. Miss Roach is such a great portrayal of a naive "spinster" - god, how I hate that word - yet one who is also strangely and acutely aware of her own naivety so as to counteract it. I'm not sure how to explain this - but she strikes me as very psychologically similar to Eilis Lacey in Brooklyn; but one whose outcome is much less clear. The ambiguity of this book's ending is exceptional! Fabulous! Readers, impose your own meaning on it..... Also, cf: Margaret Laurence's A Jest of God -- if you have not read this, but have read TSoS and loved it, you MUST read AJoG. MUST.

Repressed emotion. Here's where the twisting knife of tension and release comes in for me with books like this - that thing I look for, that thing that has my teeth set on edge as I wait, wait, wait for the character development to occur and wonder if it will. And sometimes it does. And sometimes, it doesn't (see, The Remains of the Day as the premiere example and best comparable. TSoS is what happened to the ones who weren't invited to the dinner party, but made it through the war to find themselves in seriously compromised positions, without fortune, fame or connections to anchor them to their former class. Commonality of setting, and - to a very minor extent - the inner monologue.

And one more thing, again as pointed out in the introduction, this novel defies classification. Written in 1947, it's neither modern nor post-modern; and is, it would appear, a one-hit wonder.

But a wonder it is, and it should be read, esp. if any of the comparisons are your bag. (oh, one more: The Lost Garden.)