18 August 2012
Message to future Thomas
Since this is a message to the future me, I thought I would write it in the 2nd person.
This is what you thought of these two books:
Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar
You loved the cover as you love most of the covers issued by NYRB Classics. And you seemed to remember lots of other bloggers reading this one and generally praising it. Not one to jump on the band wagon you waited a considerable number of months, perhaps even a year or more to read it for yourself. (Putting it on your list for the A Century of Books challenge seemed to help assure that you might actually get around to it.)
At first you were charmed by the thought of middle agish (?) Rachel moving off to Bristol to start a new life after her aunt left her a big old house there. You were particularly taken with Rachel's description of her work leaving "party" just before she moves. It had a kind of And Then We Came to the End kind of office vibe and introduced us to the notion that Rachel may be one of those people that is the butt of most of the office jokes. All going along great at this point. Quirky Rachel, exciting new adventure. Then Benatar ratchets things up a bit when it seems that Rachel longtime roommate may actually have thought that they were in a Lesbianic (albeit platonic) relationship. Then it is off to Bristol where it starts to become clear that Rachel might not be the most reliable of narrators. Not long after this she kind of keeps swimming and swimming to the deep end of the pool. Somewhere in there you started think of a Jane Gardam character with some seriously dark Muriel Spark thrown in to boot.
At first you worried that Rachel was going through her savings too fast and you wished that she would at least get a part time job to pay expenses. But when it became clear that she was headed for some sort of fantastic mental day of reckoning, you started to cheer her on in her spending. The mental climax would no doubt come when she reached the end of her economic tether.
And now, future Thomas, I must disappoint you. You waited too long to write about this book and the two week delay has rendered you unable to remember exactly how this finishes. You think it was mildly unresolved. Oh well, at least this way you won't spoil the surprise for your readers.
Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
You have a vague recollection of seeing part of the film adaptation of this book. You rented it decades ago when you couldn't get enough of Merchant-Ivory films which all seemed to use book adaptation screenplays written by RPJ. Not being full of Forster-esque tea sipping and such your youngish, untrained mind was bored. You decided to dust the book off (you didn't intend the pun) when the year of its publication (1975) was one that you needed to fill for the A Century of Books challenge.
So when you picked up this Booker prize winning novel on your vacation in Maine, you were immediately drawn in--delighting in the fact that the cool Maine breezes were the antithesis of the heat and dust in book. For much of the book you couldn't decide if you like the 1923 story line better or the 1975 story line better. You also kept wondering how anyone can live in such heat, especially in 1920s English clothing. Good lord, how about a sari or sarong.
You were intrigued by the possibility that women's reproductive choices in the 1970s were in some ways less political than they are today and you wondered whether or not RPJ, who is Indian only by marriage, painted an accurate portrait of life in India in the 1920s and 1970s. But then you thought that that was kind of a dumb question because the sheer number of points of view (i.e., people) living in India, whether English or Indian, make words like accurate a little fraught.
In the end you enjoyed it and vowed to put Heat and Dust on your Netflix queue.