Saturday, June 9, 2018

How I Enjoyed Muriel Spark and Penelope Fitzgerald This Week

This will need to be a brief post. I'm still not back to normal, but books provide consolation. I'm in the middle of reading the classic dog novel Big Red by Jim Kjellgaard. How interesting to discover that he was born in Albany, New York, the capital of New York State, and a city that we visit two hours' south for medical specialists. Unfortunately, his death was yet another suicide, at the age of 49. He wrote a great deal during his life and loved the western U.S., but at the end of his life he was in a great deal of physical pain.

Today I spent the entire day in bed!!! I could see early summer beauty from my bedroom all day, our gigantic sugar maples and oaks in full leaf,  but I was so exhausted from the past week, that I chose, deliberately, to spend the day with Penelope Fitzgerald's superb novel The Bookshop, first published in the UK in 1978. Just 123 pages, I do heartily recommend this novel, which makes lots of statements about the world as it is so tragically, so sadly. Yet this is also such a totally satisfying work about individual relationships in small towns and it is about individual loneliness. This town is in East Anglia, in Sussex, by the sea.  So worthwhile.  I know lots of you have probably read it.  Are there other Penelope Fitzgerald novels I should read??

I spent last Sunday reading Muriel Spark's Girls  of Slender Means. This, too, I enjoyed, in bewilderment and enchantment. Muriel Spark has much less sympathy or empathy for her characters than Fitzgerald or Barbara Pym or others writing at this time,  but, in this novel, she captures the lives of single women in London in 1945, immediately post-war, brilliantly. I was entranced by the exquisite details of 1945 rationing and the attempts women took to circumvent it. This is my second novel by Spark--I would like to read more of her, but her appalling distance from her characters does make me shudder at times.


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