I devoured this short book on a plane ride home from Sydney. It was a gift. Delivering me from myself into a world of a French holiday villa and a troubled young woman in love with a poet. While the pinstriped-suited business man next to me, clamped in his Bose headphones watched Spiderman followed by Brave and then episodes of Modern Family, I was reading sentences like, Kitty stared at the sky smashing against the mountains. It is a book – mystical and magical. It is intensely visual and visceral. It is eerie and strange, and affecting. I love the deft touch across the characters, just enough, like you are glimpsing them through veiled curtains and then sometimes probing deeper, stepping into the room, sitting on the edge of the bed, holding their hand as they speak. It feels like Michael Cunningham’s “The Hours” and I am sure someday it will be a film.
Here is a taste…
“So his lost daughter was asleep in Kitty’s bed. Joe sat in the garden at his makeshift desk, waiting for the panic that had made his fingers tear the back of his neck to calm as he watched his wife talking to Laura inside the villa. His breathing was all over the place, he was fighting to breathe. Did he think that Kitty Finch, who had stopped taking Seroxat and must be suffering, had lost her grip and murdered his daughter? His wife was now walking towards him through the gaps in the cypress trees. He shifted his legs as if part of him wanted to run away from her or perhaps run towards her. He truly did not know which way to go. He could try to tell Isabel something but he wasn’t sure how to begin because he wasn’t sure how it would end. There were times when he thought she could barely look at him without hiding her face in her hair. And he could not look at her either, because he had betrayed her so often. Perhaps now he should at least try and tell her that when she abandoned her young daughter to lie in a tent crawling with scorpions, he understood it made more sense of her life to be shot at in war zones than lied to him in the safety of her own home. All the same he knew his daughter had cried for her in the early years, and then later learned not to because it did not bring her back. In turn (this subject turned and turned and turned regularly in his mind), his daughter’s distress brought to him, her father, feelings he could not handle with dignity. He had told his readers how he was sent to boarding school by his guardians and how he used to watch the parents of his school friends leave on visiting day (Sundays), and if his own parents had visited him too, he would have stood forever in the tyre marks their car had made in the dust. His mother and father were night visitors, not afternoon visitors. They appeared to him in dreams he instantly forgot, but he reckoned they were trying to find him. What had worried him most was he thought they might not have enough English words between them to make themselves understood. Is Jozef my son here? We have been looking for him all over the world. He had cried for them and then later learned not to because it didn’t bring them back. He looked at his clever tanned wife with her dark hair hiding her face. This was the conversation that might start something or end something, but it came out wrong, just too random and fucked. He heard himself ask her if she like honey.
“Because I know so little about you, Isabel.”
He would poke his paw inside every hollow of every tree to scoop up the honeycomb and lay it at her feet if he thought she might stay a little longer with him and their cub.”