Book 2 in the Simon Serrailler crime series is starting to feel a little like a cross between The Archers and Midsomer Murders. It’s not quite a domestic drama and it’s not quite driven by the police procedural elements.
I’m wondering whether poor Martha Serrailler is long for this world… angels of death seem to be working her care home.
So, reading this for my book group. It’s not my usual reading material: non-fiction, no plot or chronology, written by an eighty-two year-old playwright and Jungian psychologist.
It’s not an autobiography, not even a memoir. It is, according to itself, a notebook containing her observations on age and on society. Rambling. Unstructured. Containing a lifetime of knowledge, experience and opinion ruminated upon in the isolation of age.
It’s essentially a blog. And so far we have considered the nature of evil, humanity and age.
As an example, I’ll leave this snippet which I found quite moving.
She dreamed that she was in a dressmaker’s shop to be measured, but that when she took off her own frock to try on the new one, she found she had another dress on underneath. She took off that one as well, only to find yet another dress beneath that one. Dress after dress she removed, becoming thinner and thinner all the while, until it came to her that in the end there would be nothing left of her, except a pile of discarded clothes and a disembodied wail.
Her head hurt. There was a sound grating against her mind, a music-less rasp like the rustling of paper. Somebody had taken a laugh, crumpled it into a great, crackly ball and stuffed her skull with it. Seven days, it laughed. Seven days.
I’ve never read Hardinge – although a quick Wikipedia search shows she was born in the same year and county as me! But there is something gorgeous in her use of figurative language: the crumpled crackly laugh above vanish “like breath from glass” as two warm hands close around hers “as if they were a nest for it” and recalling her name, Triss, “seemed a bit more natural” than her full name, Theresa, “like a book falling open on a much-viewed page”.
I do like each of these similes and metaphors… But I wonder if they all needed to be included in page 1 before Triss has even opened her eyes. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as purple prose… but maybe a hint of lilac is creeping in…
I know when I meet a good book, when I find myself blogging quotations from it. Doerr’s language is wonderfully sensuous and rich. So far, the story of Marie-Laure has resonated more than Werner’s
Color – that’s another thing people don’t expect. In her imagination, in her dreams, everything has color. The museum buildings are beige, chestnut, hazel. It’s scientists are lilac, lemon yellow and fox brown. Piano chords loll in the speaker of the wireless in the guard station, projecting rich blacks and complicated blues down the hall towards the key pound. Church bells send arcs of bronze careening off the windows. Bees are silver; pigeons are ginger and auburn and occasionally golden. The huge cypress trees she and her father pass on their morning walk are shimmering kaleidoscopes, each needle a polygon of light.
“You know how diamonds – how all crystals – grow, Laurette? By adding microscopic layers, a few thousand atoms every month, each atop the next. That’s how stories accumulate too. All the old stories accumulate stories. That little rock you’re so curious about may have seen Alaric sack Rome; it may have glittered in the eyes of Pharoahs. Scythian queens might have danced all night wearing it. Wars might have been fought over it.”