Tuesday 15 May 2012

Otto, White Lie and Pilgrimage

I was fascinated by The White Lie by Andrea Gillies. Unusual, interesting characters, but perhaps somewhat unlikely and perhaps rather too long. She’s very good at descriptive writing but there is a lot of it. A great many jet-black lies are told by this remote, dysfunctional, upper-crust Scottish family and, though I wasn’t always entirely convinced at first, I found myself swept slowly along by the story, so much so that eventually I became so absorbed I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

I couldn’t find a way of enlarging the family tree on the Kindle, so I made one of my own from the Look-Inside page on Amazon and after that I found it easier reading. (Previously there was a tendency to come to a halt and say now who the hell is Rebecca.)

There was a kind of closure at the end – but in real life the ending would lead to new drama, I suspect. Anyway, judge for yourself.

I enjoyed the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce very much at first but eventually began to get annoyed with Harold (particularly when he gave away his soap powder). On reflection I realise I was taking the story too literally – I am of a practical nature and it worried me that he was walking across England along the main roads, without a map, or change of clothes. But of course one shouldn’t worry about the day-to-day details. It’s a modern and indeed unlikely pilgrimage, allegorical, like Bunyan’s, spiritual but not religious. Some Buddhist monks have to live as simply as Harold, without possessions, I remembered.

Though I found it sentimental at times in the second half, it is a book worth reading. The nurse at the hospice told Harold that his former friend Queenie, dying of cancer, was hanging on until he arrived, but another question is would one want to hang on in her particular circumstances. So, yes, food for thought. Here's a Guardian review.

(It's not a solemn book, by the way, despite the subject matter. In fact it's often amusing, with subtle satire.)


Nan said...

Dear Otto! He isn't the chunky, broad Labrador, is he?

Susie Vereker said...

No, he's the smaller so called 'working' labrador type, as opposed to the larger chunkier 'show' labrador. All equally adorable, of course. He's not going to be a gundog or a service dog - not entirely sure he's bright enough to do any of those clever things some labs do!

Susie Vereker said...

Also the rapeseed is very tall now, over 4 feet high, so that makes him look smaller:)