No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

#69: Natural Flights of the Human Mind -- Clare Morrall

Pete Straker lives, hermit-like and apparently impoverished, in a lighthouse on the north coast of Devon. He is haunted by the ghosts of those whose death he caused.

Imogen Doody (known as Doody), a school caretaker with an interesting and painful past, has just inherited a run-down cottage in the nearby village. She is not practically-minded: but Straker is ...

I have surprisingly little to say about this novel. I did find it very readable, and the pacing was masterful. Straker and Doody are not especially likeable characters, but they're sympathetically written and there's never a sense that the author has dismissed them in the way that others have. There are some glorious passages describing the coast -- ribbons of kelp, grey light, the sun coming up over the sea. And the patchwork of memory, rumour and dreams (I suspect the reader ends up knowing more about what really happened, what Pete Straker made happen, than anyone in the novel) is carefully and compassionately constructed.

A thought-provoking novel about grief, mourning, guilt and redemption, about overwriting and crossing out the past, about escape and reinvention; also, incidentally, about the creative process (is Morrall mocking Doody or herself when she pokes quiet fun at the half-finished novels in exercise books?). It's a good read, and I don't think it's the book to blame for my lack of response to it.

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