I missed the brilliance so many others have found in Emily Perkins’ The Forrest, as did the five other members of my book group. None of the characters engaged me, not even Dorothy, who loves Daniel all of her life in a way he will never love her, which should have been moving, but I was irritated. At the beginning I enjoyed the detail involving the characters’ senses of things in the physical world, but, while each separate piece was excellent, the cumulative effect was—that word again—irritating. By page 64 I wanted to scream at this:
"He dug a ready-rolled cigarette from the pocket of his jacket. Tiny brown curls of tobacco dangled from the end of the cigarette paper and when touched by the flame from his match they illuminated bright orange and disappeared."
It’s good description, but there have been so many good description of small details by page 64 that the characters are buried under the sensations, the detail, and I’ve had enough. Clearly many others hadn’t, because there have been rave revues from all over the world. (The last time I remember being so badly out of step over a book was when Sandra Coney and I seemed to be the only people who hated Lynley Hood’s biography of Sylvia Ashton Warner.) On page 201 Dorothy throws away a pen without bothering to put its two pieces together, because, “there was nothing left to protect.” That bald statement had a strong emotional impact. I guess that was what I wanted more of, but then, Emily Perkins was writing her book.
Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 is actually three books, published in English as one large volume, so I took a break between them and read the whole thing over several weeks. It certainly works as a story and I had a good time reading it. After I finished I wondered whether I had forgotten some details from the early book because some of the things about time shifts and odd creatures and their purpose seemed unexplained. Yet they are probably unexplainable. An over-riding theme about the need for balance between good and evil is played out kind of weirdly, but it was fun to read.
The second of Alison Bechdel’s comic-form memoirs about her parents is called Are You My Mother. Full marks for courage, publishing this while her mother is still alive—with her mother’s acceptance, if not full-scale approval. It gets a little bogged down in the psychology of WInnicott and the author’s therapy, but the portrait of her mother that comes out of it all is satisfyingly complex and interesting.
I’m in the middle of a re-read of Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose and in total admiration of his erudition and ability to handle so many big themes in one book—faith, politics, pride, greed, power, love—along with a murder inquiry. I’m going to have another read of his earlier novel Foucault’s Pendulum and then take on his latest, The Prague Cemetery, which is on my to-be-read pile.