Thoughts on Things

Hello. How are you? It has been a while, hasn’t it. Now, what on earth have you been up to?

Here are some opinions.

Donald Trump is trying to blame the democrats for his horrific child-separation policy. I don’t understand. Am I being stupid? I thought the president is the one in power, not the democrats.

A celebrity had a female child. Immediately after reading this piece of news, I thought, I would like to have a female child. Does that make me sexist? I might prefer a female child over a male child. I am worried about having children because I fear I will lose my correct body shape and become misshapen and lumpy. Ok. Fat. I don’t want to get fat. There, I said it.

They are debating whether to legalise marijuana for recreational use here in the UK after a high profile case of a severely epileptic child who could only be treated with cannabis oil had his vital medicine taken off him at customs when he arrived in the UK. His mother fears for his death and is tirelessly campaigning to have medicinal marijuana legalised. Without knowing the full story, I think, my goodness, what is wrong with the UK. Just legalise medicinal marijuana, and then, once the boy is out of the danger zone, discuss recreational marijuana! It really doesn’t have to be such a long-drawn-out process.

The World Cup. As a mixed-race, multinational person who is British but certainly hasn’t spent all her life in England, I am sorry (not really) to say that I do not support England. I think their flag is bland like their over-boiled meat. Everybody here is happy that they won, and flags are flying out of windows. As somebody wryly put it, this is the only time people can hang their flags from windows without being seen as racist. Also, the police force recently put out a statement to warn the general public that if England loses, domestic violence could rise by a third. Accompanying this piece of news was a photograph of some England supporters standing passionately on some bleachers with their shirts off and their beer guts hanging out. I have to say, I don’t like English people at the best of times, and this just made it worse. Domestic violence indeed.

So who DO I support?

What? You have to support somebody, in the nation of football lovers!

I could support Morocco, Spain and Pakistan (haha, if they qualified). But the truth is…

Well..

The truth is, I don’t care.

What do you think of the world cup?

Apparently Americans don’t care because the whole world calls it football, and to Americans, that is just not what football is. Although I really don’t understand why the game they call football is called that, since they don’t ever kick their ball.

Americans have to be the odd ones out, don’t they. Illogical nation.

Those were my opinions for this stretch of 40 minutes. I will have some later, I am sure, but I shan’t bore you with them.

What are your opinions? I am curious to know.

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Tired Demon

You know those days when everything is a struggle?

I am having one of those days today.

I am ‘tuckered out’, as some would say. Shattered, as my parents would say. Burned out, done for, overtaxed, drained, fatigued and prostrated – as the thesaurus would say.

I had a lunchtime nap in my car, and woke up 20 minutes later than I ought to have, feeling groggy and jittery. I stumbled back into the office where the overpowering smell of onions smacked me in the face. Somebody was having an aromatic lunch. One that reeked, pungent and odoriferous, and added another irritated hindrance to the aching pulse in my head.

My head is now pounding, and there is a dull ache in my neck.

And my focus has been awful all through this long and toiling afternoon.

They say naps help when you’re tired! Well, mine certainly did not. It made me feel horrible!

What on earth has possessed me today?

A tired demon?

Well, begone, tired demon. I have work to do.

Poetry

Am I a poet?

Goodness me, no.

I certainly have never called myself one. And I never will, for I am too old!

I used to write fanciful little limericks when I was younger, inspired by Tolkien, of course. The road goes ever on, and all that, about raindrops being like bits of broken glass. Classy. My mother told me that wasn’t a pretty description, but I so forcefully loved it that I kept it in anyway. What a small large headed fool.

I wrote little descriptive rhyming bits about all the girls in my class. They aimed to be humorous, and were received very well by my chums. Aren’t chums supportive.

I wrote what I, at the time, perceived to be ‘epics’. The lines still echo through my head, labour over them as I did at the age of 12.

Here is an excerpt:

Twenty thousand years ago there dwelled an old tree

Its beauty was so great, a splendour for eyes to see

Delightful charms it laid on people who dared to walk its way

It stood there drooping by night

But sprung up to life by day…

And so on, of course. It went on to erratically, messily describe battles and passions and disease through the passage of time. It trailed off somewhere vaguely, after about 20  pages, as my mind expanded a little more and became distracted by newer, shinier ideas.

And then, I grew to despise poetry. How absurd it all is, I thought, crossly, forced to analyse bits of Dryden I didn’t understand.

It shape-shifted before my eyes. It no longer had the elven eloquence Tolkien and Lewis and Wordsworth so earnestly declared it did. It grew horns and barred me from entry by using long and complicated words as weapons. I didn’t understand, and grew frustrated because I felt left out of a club in which I once felt welcomed.

I hate poetry, I told everybody. I am a prose girl.

So. I stopped writing it. Stopped reading it.

Until, a few years later into literary maturity, I happened across Langston Hughes. My goodness but he was raw and painful. And then he opened doors to me, doors leading to forms of poetry that didn’t rhyme, but which touched emotional chords within me, written by voices stamped and ravaged through the injustices of time – not the silken, baby skin of Wordsworth, that is for sure.

There ain’t no Klu Klux, on a 133rd.

And I grew to love it again.

So, no, I am not a poet. Poetry and I have a tumultuous, often disdainful relationship. The disdain is entirely mine, I am ashamed to say.

I daren’t dabble in it, for I would not do it justice at all.

But I love to read it, and reading other people’s poetry, especially on blogs, opens my mind more and more to it. Why, poetry is almost like an old, long lost friend!

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What do you think of poetry? Do you write it? Do share some of your favourite pieces, if you feel so inclined, for I would love to read them.

Yellow Girl

Back in the day, there was a reason for everything.

A well-thought-out reason.

A reason pondered over cups of tea and reams of warm conversation, preserved with ink and sailing thousands of miles to each correspondent.

Hostility ran wild, self-preservation ran amok.

There were sheep, and cows, and acres and acres of land. Empty land, up for… well, grabs, really.

People called themselves Frontiers, revolutionists, fighters for freedom, tea planters, imperialists, soldiers, White Man was superior to the darkies.

Everywhere.

From Africa to India to Australia to America.

White Man was superior to the Negro, never mind the latter outnumbered the former.

White Man was superior to the Red Indian, never mind they weren’t from India.

White Man was superior to the real Indian, who was awed by their white skin and cowed by their division to conquer.

White Man and his delicate White Woman were superior to everybody, so they built a separate toilet for the black woman who cleaned their shit.

There was religion, and the up-holding of one’s values. There was chastity, minor hand-holding before marriage, and many bibles. People were appropriate and went to church where they preached hypocritically, then went home where the Help had bathed their babies and were now preparing their dinners, heads down, skin not worthy of the same quality of life. Church. God loves everybody. Just not black people.

it’s true!

God says white people are better. It says so right here in the bible, Master Johnny. Right here. Them black slaves were born for it.

And that you may tie to.

There was primitivism and people were less intelligent than others, because they had darker skin.

And that, was a fact.

Oh, yes, a fact.

They couldn’t possibly be half as intelligent, Harry, because, look, they have spears and boomerangs! We must teach them the ways of civilisation. Why, they are mere savages.

The man taught the white children from Academia. He taught the half-castes how to run a farm, and he taught the darkies how to make saddles.

Oh, why? Why! Why even ask, the whites were far more intelligent, of course!!

Let’s built our homes here because we found this land. Right here, Laura, right here, my little half pint. Never mind those nasty Indians with their wide faces and black hair and harsh, glittery eyes.

Eyes of humanity and hope and fear and loss and fierce love.

We feel this way, we are human, they couldn’t possibly.

Oh certainly we shan’t have sugar, we are rationing, didn’t you know? Here’s an orange. Just for you.

Oranges grow in Jamaica and Florida.

The French and the Irish and the Danes and the Scots and the English and the Germans.

My grandad was Irish and my grandma was Scottish.

But I am American.

Yes this is my country but my ancestors came from Europe, and get those damn immigrants out of my country they are taking all our jobs.

In sunny Florida.

And oranges grow in Florida, where the white man rules.

oh why, why do the black communities have so much poverty?

why are they like this?!

Oh.

Shithole countries.

Oh.

Why?!

I don’t know, maybe because they were stripped bare. They froze for two hundred years to serve your pasty arses. Then they got rid of you but were ruined and stripped.. bare.

Diamond mines in India for little Sarah Crewe from England.

Diamond mines in India for little Aditi Kapoor. Diamond mines made of broken glass and corrugated pipes. 

Maybe I’ll marry a yellow girl.

Yes, marry her. Have some half-caste children. Let the Americans be scandalised by your brutishness. You brute man. Then a white girl comes along and you don’t have to divorce the yellow one, and she shan’t complain, because you are a white man, and you have the right to do with her as you please.

 

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Lady Frost

It snowed on Sunday.

It was the most beautiful moment. The flakes floated down softly, yet vastly, and blanketed the world in white silence. It continued this way, muffling the earth and quieting the anxiety.

It settled in mounds, neatly covering surfaces, polite enough not to transgress corners too sharply.

Then the night set in. The skies were clear and bright, deceivingly normal. They told no secrets, and never whispered of the harsh frost that slid down over the snow, beads of icy diamond, crystal hand running smoothly over the world, leaving trails of black ice and hardening the surface of the globe.

Harsh.

Bitter.

Painful.

Treacherous.

Tendrils of bitter cold snaking through the streets, splaying over the pathways, freezing around the condensation on doors, cracking in the locks and stubbornly welding things together.

The world was so beautiful come morning. White and blue, a clear sky in stages of brightening colour, black, bare boughs against soft blues and yellows of a mellow sky.

The snow didn’t melt, it stayed in the same way in which it settled, untouched, with a dangerous glint to its surface.

And pavements were deadly, and cars crackled on the road as they inched oh so slowly around corners.

Frost is the most beautiful and majestic creature, she changes the world so marvellously, but to love her is to prick one’s finger on a flowering rose bush. She is deceiving and devious. She is only good in sips, the rest of the time one spends peering at her through heavy hoods or the cloudy window from the warmth of one’s home.

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Friday

Here is another Friday, and another … failed week. I shall review Friday as opposed to anything else, because once again I have not finished anything of importance.

This week I intended to get up and leave the house by 5:30am in order to get to the gym for some intense spin classes, and incorporate a weight lifting workout, before work. I also intended to keep strictly to my proper healthy diet and not give in to overeating or anything that would wreak havoc on my digestive system. But oh, how alluring are those foods that wreak havoc on digestive systems!

I overslept three mornings out of five due to exhaustion. I tried to make it up on those three mornings by attending lunchtime gym classes. The first was a complete failure. I signed up for a Pilates class at my gym, and I spent an hour waving my legs in the air and yawning out of complete boredom. It did not challenge me at all and I kept thinking of the hour I could have spent doing a strenuous leg day! The second day I overslept, I tried to incorporate leg day during my lunch break, but time was my enemy and I only managed to do half of what I was supposed to. I pat myself on the back, however, because at least I DID something, no?

I truly failed when it came to my diet. At work, people love food. They love to bring in treats and desserts, and it is always someone’s birthday, or someone has returned from a Congress in another country and brought back goodies from said country, or someone brings in platters of cheese and crackers, or bowls of snacks because it’s their one year anniversary at work… the list goes on! And, try as I might to avoid it, I always manage to succumb. Always.

Added to that, I am sitting at my desk all day, and the 45min to an hour gym sessions I force myself to attend are not enough activity. So I am snacking all day with minimal movement, and I got on the scales this morning to see I have gained around 4 kilos since the beginning of October. I looked at my tummy and realised that the garish protrusion is not due to a bloat… who bloats in the morning after having skipped dinner last night?… it is due to fat deposits making themselves at home in my midsection. The worst part is, they are uninvited, ugly and don’t pay rent!

So today I am in a horrible slump. My week has tumbled down a rocky crevice and is lying at the bottom somewhere, in a crumpled heap. It is fine, but it has no energy to drag itself up and its heart hurts.

You see, I was reading Anne of Avonlea through to Anne of Ingleside this week. The years of Anne’s blossoming into adulthood, taking her stunning imagination with her, and also the burgeoning romance she has with Gilbert, and the beautiful family they produce.

Ah, Gilbert. How I always yearned for a Gilbert. Gilbert is handsome, reliable, ambitious but aware of his own limits and those of the world around him. Gilbert is worldly, but also a kindred spirit. Gilbert loves Anne relentlessly, wholly, truly, fully, and has always loved her. Gilbert has no eyes and heart for anybody but Anne, and he revels in her words and thoughts and takes active part in her musings and her worlds. Gilbert says he didn’t notice a ‘very beautiful woman’ because his eyes are only on his wife.

What a lie. No man would not notice a very beautiful woman. Some men notice them too much.

And, you see, when I first got married, I too thought I had a Gilbert. Sometimes I still do think so. But rereading these books again after a good nine years, I realised that Gilbert is as real as a blue moon. As passing as a little baby spider floating on a gossamer thread in the spring wind.

This week, I feel as if it is going to shambles.

I feel misunderstood. I feel ignored. I feel as though barriers have been put up to me, and while it might be partly due to my own attitude, I feel like no real effort is being made to truly understand me. I feel like I am the one trying to do the understanding, and nothing is being done to try to understand or appreciate my thoughts and needs.

I feel neglected.

I feel halved.

I feel sore and missing.

I wrote an ode to Friday, some time back, and today, Friday has done me no wrong, but I don’t feel happy in her warm embrace. She is still comforting, however. She gently reminds me of rest to come, warmth and tea. She reminds me I will be seeing my family soon, and that I have two glorious days in which to take care of myself. She also reminds me bitterly that I will not be able to take much time out for self care during these two days, but adds that some time is better than no time.

Marriage is hard. Sacrifices have to be made, and I want to make them, but my heart hurts when I think that perhaps, maybe, sacrifices don’t want to be made for me?

Oh. I’m feeling blue.

 

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A Book Lover’s Tag

 

Diana Peach from Myths of the Mirror tagged all her followers (of which I am one!) in this exciting tag all about books! I don’t usually participate in tags (mostly because I am lazy and like to generate content the minute my fingers touch the keyboard with no prior thinking, planning or organising), but I could not pass this one up.

If you would like to take part, feel free to accept this tag!

 

Questions:

1. Do you have a specific place for reading?

I would usually say my go-to place is my bed, now that I don’t live at my family home anymore, where I would have to hunt all over the house for a quiet spot to read. My bed is comfortable and allows for any reading position, be in lying down, upside down or sitting up. I usually take a book with me wherever I go, two if I can squeeze them into my handbag, just ‘in case’.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Both! During my childhood years I was a serial dog-earer but since becoming an adult recently I discovered that dog-earing was a treacherous habit and must be nipped in the bud immediately. So I use old receipts and train tickets… anything I can find in my handbag, really!

3. Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

I do, it’s antisocial I’m told, but I do. My whole family does, which is why some of our more loved books are a little sticky.

4. Music or TV whilst reading.

Neither, I can’t really focus with personal background noise, although I don’t mind it if I am in a public space – it’s psychological, somehow. If it isn’t my music it doesn’t bother me.

5. One book at a time or several?

Oh, several. I am very motivated by mood. I take two books with me when I go out, one serious, heavy one and one lighthearted or ‘much-read’ one in case I can’t mentally handle the more serious one. An example of this contrast would be Vanity Fair and What Katy Did – one is severely depressing while the other is more up-beat and hopeful.

6. Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I love to read at home, although I have enjoyed many a book on the bus or train during my countless long commutes. Nothing, however, beats reading at home by the soft, warm light of a bedside lamp, whilst being wrapped snugly in a comfortable blanket. Nothing.

7. Read out loud or silently?

Silently! Reading out loud would slow me down! Having said that, my husband who is dyslexic and despises reading, does read out loud, and I feel for the poor fellow because it does make for clunky reading. Sometimes I read for him, but it gets tiring for sure! It takes a great deal of patience to read aloud to someone. I also find that the act of reading aloud distracts me from the content that I am reading! I don’t take it in, and have to read it again to absorb it.

8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I have a terrible habit of being impatient whilst reading and reading ahead – I never skip pages, of course, that would be an absolute disgrace. Sometimes I spoil books on myself by reading the end. I always tell myself off about it but still carry on doing it, my curiosity is too strong. Sometimes I do it while telling myself that I won’t read far enough to actually ruin anything but it is a poor self-convincing tool, because what else can I expect from reading ahead!? It is a rude habit and must be stopped immediately – I need somebody to slap me on the wrist every time I do!

9. Break the spine or keep it like new.

Well, I like to keep my books as pristine as possible, lined up in my bookshelf in height order (I did this so well as a child, but now my husband does it for me because he thinks I am too messy – it is very surreal), so I like to keep the spine like new but when you read a book so many times, the spine is bound to break at some point. I am wonderful at mending and patching broken spines and ripped covers – I had to do it so much as a child, coming from a big family of book lovers and book-rippers. When I was smaller, I liked to think of myself as Mo from Inkheart, mending books and fixing spines.

10. Do you write in books?

Yes, sometimes. I don’t like to tarnish another work with my ‘lowly’ opinions, but I love reading comments other people leave in books! I always thought that it took a very confident, self assured and intellectual kind of personality to write in a book. My father, a collector of books, writes little notes in them. I revere my father; I think he is vastly intelligent and wonderfully talented; his work is on par with none I have ever seen before, and his meticulous skill is one which I can only dream of achieving, so maybe that is why I am loathe to think I have thoughts worthy enough to grace the pages of a printed book!

11. What books are you reading now? 

Currently I am reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time, a book which I discovered whilst listening to Jenni Murray’s ‘A History of Britain in 21 Women’. I don’t have much time for reading anymore, unfortunately, so it is taking me quite a while to get through it, usually on my lunch break. It has ensnared my curiosity, that’s for sure! I am also reading  Perfume Island by fellow blogger Curtis Bausse – I am halfway through it and thoroughly enjoying it. Curtis has a writing style which is reminiscent, to me, of that of William Golding – he has the marvellous ability to use few words to create crisp images and emotion even though the reader has never experienced these feelings themselves.

12. What is your childhood favourite book?

I really can’t choose, there were so many, and all dependant on my mood at the time! I will go by the most read book in my childhood.. or three books.. it was the Anne of Green Gables series, book 1 through to 3. I can still recite entire passages from Anne’s life, and her experiences and thoughts influenced much of my hopes, dreams, aspirations, language, preferences and thoughts even today. What sticks with me the most is her enchanting combination of the beauty in nature with a magical fairyland. She made it all so real – a tree wasn’t a tree but the home of a beautiful dryad, a lake wasn’t a lake but a bowl of glittering diamonds – and Paul Irving’s famous thought, ‘Do you know what I think about the new moon, teacher? I think it is a little golden boat full of dreams. And I think the violets are little snips of the sky that fell down when the angels cut out holes for the stars to shine through. And the buttercups are made out of old sunshine; and I think the sweet peas will be butterflies when they go to heaven.’

Living in the desert like I did, I was starving for this kind of beauty. How can words create images of lands so real, yet so intangible? It’s a stunning phenomenon.

13. What is your all-time favorite book?

I really, really cannot say. I love so many. So, so many. They are like my precious children, and to favour one over the other is to maim a heart or slight a soul. High up on the list are the Anne series, Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, all books by the wonderful James Herriot, Alcott, the What Katy Dids, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre et cetera. Don’t well-loved books make you feel like you have been given a literary hug?

 

What’s your favourite book? And why do you love it?

Preta

Always thirsty,

Always drinking,

Always hungry,

Never shrinking.

Preta.

In the darkness of the night, the stars tear holes in the black canvas shrouding the earth so they can peep through, decorating the sky with twinkling lights, playing hide and seek with each other and shooting at each other through the silent vacuum of the universe.

A shadow slinks behind the walls of houses. It creeps through the stinking back alleys where rubbish bins line the brick walls neatly, oozing bin juice. It pauses, sniffs, and slinks into an open bin. It guzzles, and slips out again, prowling for more. Its breath rattles in its throat, almost like a death rattle, and as it climbs out of yet another bin, its large, round belly glows in the dim light from the street lamps just outside the alleyway.

Another creature, with the same protruding belly and glowing eyes, slinks around the corner. It stops, eyeing its counterpart on the bin, and a low snarl starts in its throat. Hunger propels its forward, a deep, prolonged ache to fill an unknown void, and it rolls into the dustbin and begins to scavenge for food.

The rattling sound echoes through the alleyway, and a window above is thrown open. Light floods over the cobbles, and a low hiss emanates from the dustbin, as both creatures shy away from the brightness.

The cats are in the bins again, Hank!’

 

I came across this creature here, if you’re interested for background on the creature known as ‘preta’, or ‘hungry ghost’.

 

Ebullient

Well isn’t my Monday-Friday daily posting schedule going well! (not)

Fridays are supposed to be my ‘review’ days, and last week I posted a book review. I have not read nor watched anything particularly enticing recently, so I will review this week.

This week was an event. It was an event I will call ‘Ebullient’, which means ‘bubbling over’. This word can have positive connotations; to be in an ebullient mood is to be excited and enthusiastic about something. However, I like to think that it can also have negative connotations! Bubbling over means danger, heat, suspense. It can translate to anxiety, worry and fear.

Excited and enthusiastic I certainly was about this week, but I was also anxious and worrisome and dreading of it. Is that correct English?

So I geared myself up for it in good cheer, talked myself into a great mood, and plunged myself full swing into some hard work and lots of smiling.

I had two days of training, which was to take place at the golf club next to my workplace. Fear not, we did no golfing. We listened to lectures, saw presentations and participated in ‘exercises’. We were encouraged to ‘network, network, network’ and because I am antisocial and socially awkward, I found this particularly challenging. I like watching people and talking to people, but I think I don’t know how to.

They served a delicious dinner, the highlight of which was a massive tureen of profiteroles and oozing, hot, chocolate sauce.

Both days I returned home late, exhausted and zombie-like. How on earth did I survive university?

After this there was a company team-building day, followed by an evening event.

That was exhausting. I learnt a great deal, I like to think I participated well, but it was exhausting. Every laugh I laughed was forced and fake and eventually it began to hurt my brain.

There were some great highlights, some lovely people, and some excellent food.

But my heart raced, my palms sweated, and I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. I was so tempted to go home, but I forced myself to attend an evening of socialising. It was difficult. But I was ebullient, in appearance at the very least.

I am twenty three years old, and it might be time to accept that while I am confident, I might just not be the funny, capable, social person I used to think I was.

That was back when I had a firm group of friends, you see. Now I am a nomad and my network of security (of family and friends) is spread over several continents.

Now I am drifting alone, sort of on a little bit of driftwood, following in the wake of the mad backwash created by a magnificent cruise-ship. I can hear the laughter, but never be a part of it. I can see the joy, but can’t feel it. I can sense the warmth, but cannot touch it.

I can be on the fringes, but never in the middle.

I can dance through the dance floor, but my arms will be cold.

I can flit from one group to another, but shoulders will get ever closer together.

I can smile my widest smile, but eventually it will fade, leaving a forced ache in my cheeks.

Today was a crap day. Like a hangover, but a social one. I don’t feel like being nice to anybody, I just want to curl up and be alone for a while. I feel like I’ve had too much socialising with far too many people and I need a break!

Good job it’s the weekend! Time to recuperate!

How was your week? Do you enjoy ‘networking’ and socialising, or does it tire you out and make you desire solitude?

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Amy and Isabelle

I bought this book as an afterthought, selected out of a range of pickings offered to me on Amazon after I’d purchased a book already. It stood out because of its simple, no-nonsense title; I wanted to know more.

The New York Times Book Review daubed it “one of those rare, invigorating books that take an apparently familiar world and peer into it with ruthless intimacy, revealing a strange and startling place”.

Set in a baking town in the middle of an intensely hot summer, the vivid imagery of a rotting green river snaking through the heart of the town makes for a stunning metaphor of the rotting sickness underlying the relationship between mother and daughter. Not that its long-term, of course. The story explores the complicated relationship between a girl on the cusp of adulthood, and a mother who has made many sacrifices in order to lead, at least in her own mind, a ‘respectable’ life.

At the heart of this story is a tale of two minds, formed and influenced by unfortunate circumstances. It speaks of loneliness, desperation for human contact, and highlights the way your own mind can form a barrier between you and your basic human desire to be social. In a way this novel spoke to me directly, because I related on a very personal level with the loneliness felt by Isabelle, the construction of social events in her mind. I was terribly lonely when I moved to a different city, leaving all my friends behind. Gradually we lost contact, and I found it immensely difficult to make new friends. It got to a point so severe that I did something incredibly stupid – for want of human contact. It’s sad and pathetic, but so real. Elizabeth Stout painted this in such a raw, open way. It was quite tough subject matter to navigate through.

Despite loneliness being the driving force behind the main characters’ actions, there were many more complex themes driving the plot forward. Amy’s burgeoning sexuality, Isabelle’s anxious, overprotective and even jealous tendencies towards her daughter, feelings of inadequacy, lack of communication and even Amy feeling a little embarrassed of her mother, were just some aspects explored by Stout, and which made for often uncomfortable reading.

I didn’t particularly enjoy reading this book. It was difficult, at times revolting. Despite this, I couldn’t put it down. The narrative was compelling; with Strout interweaving the minds of the two protagonists, combining two very separate outlooks on the same world (which I suppose is the reality of our lives, viewing the world through a million different perspectives), and setting them amidst vivid descriptions of the town, the slow, almost zombie-like townsfolk who, as it happened, had very real, very raw lives of their own.

This book was brilliantly written, the exposition foreshadowed almost poetically, and the emergence into truth almost like a blossoming of understanding, which I felt fitted in marvellously with the subject-matter. The novel ‘came of age’ beautifully, in a way which is wistfully reminiscent of much of our growth and understanding. This novel is about learning to love, learning to let go, and learning to ‘live’.

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