Normally, I read absolute garbage when I'm on holiday.
"Damaged" by a pseudo-named care worker: the case of how another child was failed by inept social services. I cry into my pillow at night, I really do. Why do I pick up these books in the first place?
The other nasty habit I have – apart from reading misery memoirs – is having five novels on the go at once. My eyes are bigger than my literary stomach. So this holiday I decided also to complete some of the reading I’ve had stored up for months. And, in once case, since November 2007.
First on my list was Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Back in my ND days, we were about to start it for coursework. The cover reminds me of dark bus journeys on foreboding mornings, when I could dive like Celia into its cool fountain and escape my petty worries. (And also, in Cee’s tacitly seducing fashion, of replying to E’s morning-bus-ride texts. “How’s Catholic Central today?” It was just before we got together.)
I see too much of my younger self in Briony. The overactive imagination, the precocious sense of always being right, the notebooks filled with “stories”. My masterpiece at ten was “SS3”, and I regarded it with as much pride as Briony with “Arabella”.
In any case, I finished it this morning by the pool in the shade (fantastically audacious reveal at the end; heart-wrenching, throw the book across the room epilogue), and made a start on Brideshead Revisited.
It was not by choice. Mrs C has set it as an A2 text, and I was initially more than disappointed. Perhaps it had something to do with Dad’s summary of “a book about finding moral guidance and re-assessing your life”. Fantastic choice, for a bunch of seventeen-year-olds. Or maybe E’s outraged 50-pages-in review: “It’s about a load of public schoolboys and their upper-class escapades.” Things appeared to happen, just not in a very interesting way. It was going to be, all in all, a dull read.
But, in the Mediterranean sunshine, in the lavish holiday laziness, I feel I may have been a bit mistaken. Yes, it is about public schoolboys, their upper-class escapades, and not a lot happening in a very boring way. But. I’ve come to the conclusion, on pp100, that I don’t get it. I don’t get the literary meaning behind Anthony’s five-page monologue. Nor the reason why the Flyte’s Catholicism is so interesting to Charles Ryder, or what it has to do with me. Nor how, in fact, I am supposed to find symbolism and theme and literary meaning (what is that, exactly? Will someone explain?) behind a book which is, primarily, about public schoolboys and their upper-class escapades.*
But this is ok.
I have reached my peace. I read for plot, and nothing more. And in doing so, I’ve found, it’s actually quite amusing to poke fun at.
*AND, while I’m at it, it treats women appallingly. This is not ok. This is not ok at all.
There is another book I want to write about. But it needs a post of its own.