Month: April 2014

As if we’d choose even the grief

To love as if we’d choose even the grief. from ‘Fontanelles’ in Skin Divers by Anne Michaels We spent Easter in France. Each morning I sat and read in an armchair in the bedroom while B slept, and in their room the children slept or woke and started chatting & laughing. The sky stayed clear blue; the sun warmed us through. The light was like honey. If I was a painter, I thought, we’d have to move here. I read Dubliners; I started Dear Life. I read Anne Michael’s poems in bed at night, late after evenings filled with food & wine. The children looked, as they always do at B’s parents’, more lovely to me than ever. Back home, and the daffodils are over, the tulips too. The garden is lush and green. From the kitchen the longer grass hides the patches of earth worn bare by our winter footsteps. There are bluebells. Forget-me-nots spilling onto the grass.  There are pale green leaves on the magnolia and still a few flowers. Black spot on …

The Children’s Bach

Vicki went to the boys’ room and fortified herself, as women do, with the sight of sleeping children, the abandonment of limbs, the oblivious breathing, the throats offered to the blade. ‘If anyone came to harm them,’ thought Vicki, ‘I would kill. Without even thinking twice.’ I have a theory that having children is, among other things, simply to re-live one’s childhood from the other perspective. Sometimes, re-reading can have the same perspective-shifting effect. One Sunday night I returned to Helen Garner’s The Children’s Bach, devouring it in a single sitting under a blanket on the sofa. If pressed to choose, I would say that this slender novella is among my favourite books. Dexter & Athena Fox live in the Melbourne suburbs with their two small children, precocious Arthur & autistic Billy. It’s the mid 80s. The Children’s Bach is the story of what happens when their gentle, constrained domesticity rubs up against the casual presence of drugs, music & sex brought into their lives by Dexter’s old university friend Elizabeth, her boyfriend Philip, and …

Crossing to Safety

There it was, there it is, the place where during the best time of our lives friendship had its home and happiness its headquarters. I was worried after I’d started Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. The first chapter – present tense in the present day, 1972, of the narrator, writer Larry Morgan – was so mesmerising and beautiful, at once vivid, meditative and enticing, that I started to believe it was impossible for the whole book to live up to it. I needn’t have worried. Crossing to Safety is the story of two couples, Sally & Larry Morgan and Charity & Sid Lang, and their long friendship spanning the 1930s to the 1970s, their 20s to their 60s. It’s about friendship, aging and failure, about lost promise and nostalgia, about hard work and luck and disappointment, about illness, and about doing the very best you can with what you’re given. It’s a book about that generation who came of age in the depression and seem to have spent the rest of their lives running to …

The kingdom of the well

It’s been a week of illness – theirs & mine. It starts to occur to me that with a family of five there is always someone else to catch whatever it is. But yesterday was sunny and we had sheets blowing on the line. The clocks went forward at the weekend & the evenings have that magical summertime promise.  Everything feels somehow different, shifted towards the light. In the front garden the tulips (all three of them!) are blooming. And in the back garden the magnolia petals are starting to drift to the ground. It’s perfect ‘perfume’ making time of year and there are jam jars & tiny French honey pots scattered round the garden, each full of brown water & petals in various states of decay. I love it when they tap on the back door & ask me to smell their concoctions. Alone in the house on Saturday morning, I knew that I was genuinely ill when I found myself lying in bed with a book that I couldn’t even open. What a …