Family, love, depression, belonging, post brexit Britain, art and beauty…Some of the themes found in my latest three reads
Some books don’t tell stories…sort of. A line Made By Walking is of that ilk. Its more an exploration or a portrait of depression, or someone having a breakdown. Its about art or beauty in the everyday or the mundane. I have to say, I didn’t enjoy it. That’s not to say it wasn’t good. I just found it something to admire rather than enjoy. Baume captures the atmosphere expertly. It’s gloomy and claustrophobic and stifling, sort of how I imagine depression can feel.
Its written in short bite sized bits. Each paragraph its own little stand alone piece of prose. And that’s where the admiration happens. She writes so well. Frankie the protagonist is an artist, with her eye on the world finding the beauty in the smallest of moments. She’s not the most sympathetic of characters. She’s hard to like. But there’s a certain guilt in that, because you know she is struggling, but you kind of want to shake her out of her stupor. Not unlike living with someone with depression when it can be hard to not (unhelpfully) tell someone to snap out things.
A study of character. Something to admire, but I didn’t enjoy it. I accept I might be in the minority with that opinion though. I wouldn’t put someone off the book. My Goodreads ranking was 3 out of 5 stars, for the care and attention given to the writing. I would suggest reading it slowly, imbibing each bite size chapter and having a little think about each one before moving on. You have to be in the mood for that though.
My Name is Lucy Barton is a much warmer book. Lucy is in a hospital bed, being visited by her mother. Some of the same ground is covered, remininicing about childhood. Some sadness, isolation, poverty. But the main theme is love, or its absence, or the want of love. Its about a complex relationship between a mother and daughter that doesn’t appear to be loving, but has a deep unspoken love.
I have read one other Elizabeth Strout book, Olive Kitteridge, and I have to say she writes people so well. There are segments that just make you stop, then reread. Some of the emotions coming of the page are palpable, brooding even. Is Lucy unhappy, lonely, or happily married and moved on from her unhappy childhood.
Its a short read and an easy read, but unlike A line…its very much enjoyable.
Book three in this post also has a woman as the main character. Autumn by Ali Smith, is apparently the first of four books, to be named after each season. Its also set in a post-Brexit Britain, and judging by the few references, Smith is a remainer. The book is a nice short read, with likeable characters. There were a number of moments when I stopped to shout at the pages. “Yes! That’s bang on” or to have a good chuckle to myself, or to shake my head in sad agreement about the state of modern culture.
Its not just about modern Britain though. One of the characters Daniel Gluck is 101 years of age, and may or may not have had a romantic tryst with a little known artist caled Pauline Boty. The story moves about a bit. Its cynical and whimsical, and warm and wise. I can’t wait to find out what happens in the future instalments.