I was moved by Colm Toibin‘s prize-winning ‘Brooklyn‘ (Viking, 2009). I was gripped to the end by Eilis Lacey’s story, a tale of economic migration and the psychological fallout of the Catholic Irish diaspora in the very early 1950’s. After the seasickness and homesickness – as if she had any choice in her destiny, the conservatism of a closed Catholic community, even reaching across the sea – she’s finding her feet in Brooklyn, the movie ‘Singin’ in the rain’ is first showing on a significant date with the Italian boy, Tony, the freedoms and pleasures gained tentative and always weighed against what others might think. And then tragedy draws her back home and other duties and loyalties cannot be ignored. As I say, I was gripped by her dilemma, the emotional choices she has to confront; it could have gone either way right to the end. And we don’t know how it works out, all the possibilities for growth are all still there. It’s a great book, written in simple, but never simplistic, understated language, almost deadpan in places, which just breathes engagement, shared pain, growth and pleasure. And whereas you just want to strangle Thomas Hardy‘s Tess (or I always do) for the choices she doesn’t make, Eilis really is effectively powerless against the closeness of her extended community, her basic decency holding her back. Never spelt out, but inherent in the writing is the feel of how far women have come, how far the Irish have come, how far we all have come, because it is a tremendous period novel too, the small details of the forward movement of history – the letting of coloured people into the department store Eilis works in, the stocking of their brands of nylon stocking – beautifully handled. I don’t normally get on with major book prize winners.
Heartening to discover that 85.2% of Guardian readers responding agreed with Carlos Tevez that Gary Neville is, “a boot licking moron”. For all that one is appalled at the money fuelling Man City, there is a certain satisfaction at recent footballing events in that city. One is disappointed, though, that Gilly in Hollyoaks (the only soap I watch), whose support of said team was once a source of humour and a key to his character, has yet to sport a scarf tied Italiano-style.
Listening, entranced, to Keith Jarrett‘s solo explorations and burblings at the pianoforte on Paris/London: Testament; one of the boons of waking up early and headphones – the rest of the house (wife and son) would never let me so indulge. The London concert in particular – meditations and melodies of great beauty, as poignant as ‘Brooklyn’, in fact.
And so on with the Inspector Alan Banks novels of Peter Robinson:
Title: Wednesday’s child
Number in sequence: 6, published 1992
Themes and settings: lumpenproletariat, child abduction & abuse, psychopathy
Music: mostly scattered background and other people’s stuff; he’s variously listening to Ivor Gurney (must seek out), Schubert songs and other solo piano (Chopin, Mozart) while his son is discovering the blues
Distinguishing characteristics: increasing psychological depth of Banks, his motivation, introspection. For this, it’s the best book so far. “You always did have a chip on your shoulder when it came to the rich and influential, didn’t you?” – right on! And there are hints of humour breaking through. Also a certain historical resonance (the Moors murderers) is new.
State of marriage/relationship: empty nestdom approaches, son at uni, daughter discovering boys, wife distant and querying where their marriage is going, still busy with her art gallery
Quotes: “The best coppers, Banks thought, are the ones who hang onto their humanity against all the odds.”
Any other thoughts: quaintness of the computer references – only one guy on the team can use them and he reads SF – Philip K.Dick & Roger Zelazny (tasty!). Actually, a fair number of literary nods: John Cowper Powys & ‘Weymouth Sands’! robinson is weakest, least convincing, on the mother whose child is missing – “slattern” indeed. Looking out of his office at the market square now a constant, a leitmotif even. For a police procedural no great sense of the enormous search effort involved when a child goes missing.