Editor's Lit: November
There’s nothing more powerful than a thoughtfully worded prose to arouse feelings and awaken memories. These two books, summon both tears and laughter out of Su Aziz who reluctantly relents to each realistic, splendid and remarkably written story.
‘The Sense of An Ending’ by Julian Barnes (Vintage, RM32.90) will evoke many emotions in you, calling for a glass of amber liquid worthy of 40 per cent alcohol to accompany it. Barnes’ eleventh novel may be a lean one at only 163 pages but it won the Man Booker Prize the same year it published in 2011. In this one, his prose is elegant and his protagonist, intrinsically harsh within a gentle plot.
From page to page, we follow a middle-aged man who confronts a past he has shelved for some time. That is until one of his three close mates from college returns from the grave in the form of a mysterious legacy along with an old girlfriend who is ‘maddeningly present’ and who will not let go of it. Despite the life he has built for himself with an adequate career that leads to a satisfactory retirement and a cordial relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, the surfacing of his two friends – one dead and the other alive – forces him to re-evaluate his person, his past actions and where he stands in the world.
There’s a disconcerting feeling of, ‘is that me?’ with every sentence from page one. Along with every dialogue or thought his relatable protagonist exudes, you realise that he comes emotionally and quietly undone – along with him, you will too. Self-examining is unavoidable in this one and yet, you’ll be addicted. You’ll want to read it quickly to the end, to discover how does he hold it all together and brave uncomfortable slipups. You will want to dislike him because he is flawed, average and at times, cowardly. But you will also cheer for him because he is not all that different from that person in the mirror that stares back at you.
In 'The Shoemaker’s Wife' by Adriana Trigiani (Simon & Schuster, RM35.50) patience and acceptance seem to be a big part of the plot. The heroine waits, she gets her man. The hero accepts his fate and he goes to a better life as his luck turns. When both wait and accept, they find each other, cheating the odds that are against them such as the war, poverty and an ocean between them. Now, if those are not ingredients for a tear-jerker than nothing else compares.
The story itself is based on Trigiani’s grandparents’ love story. Here’s a tale of a strapping boy growing up in a convent who meets a practical but beautiful girl in the Italian Alps where they live in the early 20th century. Fate, however, separates them and with no follow-up from either one, it takes a bit of time before they accidentally and very briefly meet again in a hospital in New York as immigrants. Nothing comes out of that meeting and they continue with their separate lives. Then the war breaks out and when it is over, fate steps in and reunites them. Luck, however, is fleeting for these two but despite their quick ending, happiness is evident.
What’s lovely about this book is Trigiani’s graceful style of cobbling words together that results in the real tone in which the story’s told. This is not a fairytale, it is relatable and because of that, memorable. It’s a book to curl up with on a rainy day with a hot cup of tea, if not a box of tissues.
These books are available at any Borders book stores. For more info, see website.