Well with a huge pile of books beside my bed I have been attempting to read them before they are due back at the library. The only problem is, that as I return them to the library, I find other books to take their place.
The Lovers of Amhurst
As I returned “The Lovers of Amhurst” a story about the adulterous relationship between the brother of Emily Dickenson and the wife of a college professor, allegedly based on truth. The book takes the side of the lovers and is very unkind towards the wife and children who are hurt by the affair. The great nature of their love is supposed to excuse the deceit and unkindness towards his family. I have to say I was not convinced and I found the descriptions of their ‘spiritual’ connection uncomfortable. I once had a friend who disapproved of divorce and was very vehement on the subject, until she fell for a divorced man, upon which, she spent her time finding arguments in favour of divorce. I am not commenting on divorce, but the practice that people have, of finding arguments to excuse their behaviour once they are emotionally involved, whether they previously espoused these ideas or not.
So it was while returning this somewhat disappointing novel, I found a Joanne Harris book of short stories A Cat A Hat And A Piece Of String, naturally who could resist a title like that and the book duly came home with me. The next book due back was published by Persephone Books a publisher recommended by Dovegreyreaderscribbles who is currently working her way through this publisher’s books.
Someone At A Distance
The book is a fairly thick tome by Dorothy Whipple and concerns an old lady who is feeling neglected (despite having plenty of money, a comfortable house and a loving family) she feels unappreciated, so she hires a French companion/maid. The maid has just had a disastrous relationship and been dumped and she is out to get as much for herself as possible. Anyway, the old woman leaves a lot of money to this companion when she dies and the girl arrives to collect her money after probate. While she is waiting, she stays with the family of the old lady where she seduces the son and wrecks the family. I found the book hard going I liked the wife she was straightforward, very hardworking and loved her family. The husband was selfish and failed to notice how much his wife did to make a lovely home for them all. He was also weak failing to take responsibility for his actions.
The temptress is jealous, shallow, unkind and just plain nasty. She doesn’t even care for the husband and she makes everyone miserable. She manages to hurt everyone she comes into contact with. I have rarely met anyone so petty and shallow, mean and nasty in fiction. I nearly threw the book across the room in frustration at one stage something I am not in the habit of doing. The uplifting factor for me is the recovery of the wife once her marriage has broken down and she has lost her house. She finds a job and somewhere to live her children rally around and she is better cared for then when her supposedly devoted husband was there.
A Cat A Hat And A Piece Of String
From this turgid and overwrought plot, I turned to the short stories of Joanne Harris she of “Chocolat” fame. It was as lovely as a warm bath and fresh sheets on a cold night.
The story of the woman who falls in love with a tree was delightful. The story of the greasy spoon cafe at the railway station run by the muses was inspirational. They were parables, modern fairy tales and I lapped them up seeing layers of meaning in each small gem.
They are like a series of delicious starters filling and wholesome perfect in their way. Perhaps reading them all at once could induce a form of reading indigestion in the same way that reading a number of Father Brown stories can also be too much at any one time but interspersed with the self seeking Madamoiselle Larnier the world was not such a bleak place in these stories. Next time I have to read The Priory wish me luck….