Headline Review, 2007, 284 p.
One of Scotland’s favourite books.
In modern day Edinburgh Iris Lockhart is juggling life with her (married to someone else) lover Luke, her step-brother Alex and her business running a women’s clothes shop when she receives a phone call from a psychiatric unit informing her she now has legal responsibility for a great-aunt of whose existence she was previously unaware. This is Esme Lennox, born in India, where she had a gruesome experience when her younger brother Hugo died of typhoid while her parents and sister Kitty were away from home. The family subsequently returned to Edinburgh where Esme’s independent-mindedness and refusal to conform to the norms in school and social life of that time created problems: problems which eventually led to incarceration in an asylum. (In those days it only took the signature of a GP to lock up an inconvenient woman at a husband’s or father’s request. The woman could spend decades interned, only being released when the institutions began to shut down.)
Iris cannot confirm Esme’s identity as her father is dead, her mother has never heard of such an aunt and Iris’s paternal grandmother, Kitty, suffers from Alzheimer’s. She nevertheless takes her great aunt in when the hostel Esme was assigned turns out to be a dreadful place.
The lives of Iris and Esme are told in a close third person while Kitty’s first person stream of consciousness reminiscences are presented as if they were ramblings but within them are contained kernels of truth.
O’Farrell’s control of her material is masterly. (There may be one small foreshadowing misstep where long before the reveal we are given a clue to the mystery in a two-line paragraph which is repeated later. Maybe there are those who would have missed it on its first appearance but I would have thought once ought to have been enough.) The sections dealing with Esme’s time in India and those of the present day are handled with equal facility. Beautifully written and engaging.
Pedant’s corner:- “of husbands at the end of their tethers” (husbands, so that should be ends of their tethers,) the crew were scurrying (was,) “‘Aren’t I?’” (Okay, she was an ex-pat; but her parents were Scottish, it should be ‘Amn’t I?’) “‘You getting on one of your things about this, aren’t you?’” (You’re,) booties (they were for a baby, so bootees.)
Now add Greg Lake to the growing list.
Founder member of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Lake of course found individual fame with his 1975 hit I Believe in Father Christmas.
Lake apparently wrote Lucky Man when he was twelve having received a guitar from his mother as a present. It was one of the first times a Moog synthesiser had featured on a record.
Gregory Stuart “Greg” Lake: 10/11/1947 – 7/12/2016. So it goes.
This shop has good glazing:-
The window has a lovely curve:-
Great horizontals here and the ironwork is delightful:-
There was some sort of annual celebration going on in early May so this is mostly hidden by a roller coaster. “Rule of three” in the gable windows though:-
More rule of three on windows, upper detailing and ironwork on roof:-
In a previous post on Art Deco in Groningen, The Netherlands, I showed two photos of a cinema. This year I took more views of that building. This is the rear view:-
This is the view from the street that runs beside it back to front:-
Lovely window arch on cinema wall:-
Detail on window arch, a sculpted head:-
Great columning and glazing towards front:-
The glazing has fantastic detailing:-
Posted in Dumbarton FC at 22:14 on 6 December 2016
Scottish Cup Third Round Replay, The Rock, 6/12/16.
This season I wasn’t going to blog about games I hadn’t been to but this result cannot pass without comment. It’s appalling.
It may not have been a surprise after the first game in Bonnyrigg but it is still quite simply the worst result in the club’s history. Period.
Stevie Aitken as manager has to take a serious look at himself.
I blogged about the outside of Groningen Museum here. On this May’s visit we actually took a look inside.
The first thing that strikes anybody on entering is this elaborate mosaic-tiled staircase:-
Similar tiling adorned another staircase:-
I was taken with this model of Groningen city centre made from fabric. It was under glass so it’s a little distorted:-
Thee was some not very aesthetically appealing German modern art as the main exhibit when we were there. I’m not averse to modern art but I must confess I preferred these traditional Dutch landscapes:-
In a history of Groningen section was this textile of a sailor and flags of different nations which was of Great War vintage though of course the Dutch were not involved in that conflict:-
Posted in Writing at 20:00 on 5 December 2016
According to a review of that same Roberts book in Strange Horizons this kind of satire deals “less with people as such than with mental attitudes. Pedants, bigots, cranks, parvenus, virtuosi, enthusiasts, rapacious and incompetent professional men of all kinds, are handled in terms of their occupational approach to life as distinct from their social behavior. The Menippean satire thus resembles the confession in its ability to handle abstract ideas and theories, and differs from the novel in its characterization, which is stylized rather than naturalistic, and presents people as mouthpieces of the ideas they represent.” (I quote using the USian spelling.)
I can see it – especially in regard to his 2014 novel, Bête. Whether or not the practice of Menippean satire is a good thing will depend very much on the reader. I’m not averse to the odd bit of abstruseness myself in my reading but I tend to err more on the side of emotional connection.