2 journalers for this copy...
Short listed for the Giller Prize in 2006 and deservedly so. I wonder who won that year? Oh, Vincent Lam and his Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures. Hmmm. I've read that and liked it but I don't know...I think I'd have picked Home Schooling!
These stories are lovely - a pure pleasure to read. That is not to say that the the stories themselves are about lovely things. In most, if not all cases, they are decidedly not. Perhaps my favourite story, the one that hooked me and that I will probably never forget is, the first: "What Saffi Knows". As I wandered through the story, over "white fawn lilies like stars fallen to earth, and stinging nettles, blameless to look at, leaves limp as flannel..." and "...a field, untended, sequestered, grass undulating in the wind." I was mesmerized by the beauty of the writing even as the hair stood up on my neck as I began to understand what Saffi knew. The story is truly creepy and truly sad, yet at the same time so beautifully written that you are compelled to read it and then want to read it again.
While none of the other stories are quite as "creepy" as the first there is an underlying sadness or loss in them. In the title story, a family lives in an old and isolated boarding school by the sea. The school, of which the father was principal, had to close when a boy, a pupil of the school, drowned. He's intent upon re-opening it and insists his children be educated there. One of the daughters, Sophie comments, "Everything this family does is doomed." And so it appears. The mom gave up her own career to accompany her husband to this remote place. Sisters, Sophie and Annabel, starved for love (indeed their parents seem neglectful in this aspect of parenting - the mom being more interested in the boy who drowned) and wanting to escape, compete for the affections of a chess tutor whom each see as their rescuer. But as Annabel discovers, "Love was necessary to life, but it was rare; it was a rare element, and she didn't know, she hadn't worked out a strategy yet to cope with that fact."
I have found that there are books that I can just settle into, no stumbling over language, no scratching of the head wondering just what does this mean or what is the author getting at, but just being immersed in the world created by the author. This is one of those. Most if not all of the stories are set on the west coast. While I've been there, it is not "home" to me, I don't have ingrained memories of sights, smells and feelings. But Windley creates, with her wonderfully descriptive language a "home" for her stories that is as real as anything remembered.
Normally, I'd release a book as soon as I've read it but I may just hang on to this one for a second look.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
I was going to hang on to this one a while for a 2nd peek, but truth is it would just sit on my shelf gathering dust for eons before I finally (if ever!) got back to it. So, I'll take it to the meeting tonight. If no one puts their hand up, I'll leave it on the OBCZ shelf. I can't imagine it gathering dust there.
And I LOVE the little silver bookcrossing sticker on the front cover! I've never seen those ones before!
WILD RELEASE NOTES: