Monday, February 04, 2008

reading challenge #3

I didn't want to turn over the last page of Joan Clark's An Audience of Chairs, it was just too good to end.

"The weather was a dark, smudgy grey and the wind blowing off the Firth brought wintery rain and sleet. The flat was cold, and as she lay in bed trying to stay warm, she saw no reason why she should get up. Moranna often mistook self-absorption for independence and was unaware that without her husband she had lost her sense of direction."

There is something about East Coast stories that hook me, and after finding the hardcover of this novel for $4.99 I started reading it right away (knocking two other Canadian books I had been reading into the dustbunnies on my bedroom floor). I fell for Moranna's character immediately, even though she did unforgiveable things. Without judgement, Clark crafts Moranna's character so that you see how she is compelled by her mental illness to act inappropriately. Even in her darkest hour you cannot help but empathize, and you root for her to overcome her own demons when she is finally on her own.

As a mother, I was torn by the loss of her young children and I shared the helplessness of knowing they were out there - somewhere. But Clark gave so many perfect insights, such as the excerpt above, which lifted the blame just enough so that you could see the story unfold without prejudice. I remember being particularly touched by the insight that Moranna couldn't look into the future enough to realize that the dependence her infant and toddler daughters had on her was fleeting, that in a few short years they wouldn't need her to do everything for them. It is an overwhelming time, and I can all too easily imagine how this could unravel your world, especially when mental illness exists just below the surface.

This is a book I will be passing around, and it will have lasting influence on me. The prose is crisp and forgiving, the story touching and profound. I simply can't say enough about it.

The knitting comparison: Definitely this is like the perfect shawl, a garment particularly for women, intricate in its' lace pattern but absolutely practical in its' use. The knitting is methodical and you have to be totally dedicated, but the final product is too beautiful for words. See what I mean?

4 comments :

John Mutford said... [Reply to comment]

I'd read, and read a lot about, Latitudes of Melt but not this one. It's nice to see it doesn't disappoint. It sounds like a psychological sort of story.

hip_ragdoll said... [Reply to comment]

For years, ever since I read Eriksdottir, I have been shouting to the rafters to try and encourage more people to read Joan Clark. Her writing is just so incredible, and worthy of every award she has yet to win.

John: I've read "Latitudes of Melt" and can say it's phenomenal, but "An Audience of Chairs" remains my personal favourite of hers.

I pushed that book on everyone I knew and not a single person disagreed with the fact that it's a truly wonderful read.

Okay, enough gushing.

Sam: I love the knitting comp.

Teddy Rose said... [Reply to comment]

This one sounds really good. I never heard of Joan Clark before this but will have to check her out. On to my TBR this book goes!

By the way, I just started taking intermediate knitting lessons last night and am make a warm cozy sweater with a polar bear on it. The yarn I’m using for the bear is so soft and fuzzy.

Marla said... [Reply to comment]

I found this book at Value Village last night in paperback form. And even though VV's somewhat exorbitant book prices have always been a sticking point with me, I remembered this review, and the comments - and whipped out my 30% off coupon and bought it (along with a crocheted blanket a neighbourhood weirdo made for Josephine, that I donated, and felt so bad about donating that I bought it back for 99 cents too).

And it was on your birthday, so it felt right. Should I be getting gifts like that on your birthday?