Margaret Drabble is high on my list of esteemed authors but low on my ability to read her books to the end. Throughout my reading years I've tried several, because they ALWAYS get highly lauditory reviews. Yet not being much of an egghead (well, to be honest not at ALL an egghead) I finally have to admit that the problem obviously is me. But the literary poohbah's are doing the rating, and I know that THEY know what they are talking about.
Nevertheless, I had it in my heart to read her most recent book (2009), called THE PATTERN IN THE CARPET, A Personal History with Jigsaws. It has been tough going, but so far almost every page has sent me back into my childhood in the most wonderful memories that for the most part had not yet surfaced in all the "Life Story" writings that I have done. I started using little pieces of torn paper as bookmarks for pages I wanted to go back to and savor again. However, by the 100th page the top end of my book looked like a Cheerleaders PomPom.
It would do no good to try to give a recap of this book. There's way too much for a blog. But today I will share with you a snippit from one of the pages. It has to do with death and life after death, but whatever your feeling about what's beyond this life, I don't think you can quarrel with the lovely images....
Drabble says that Bishop C. H. Brent gave a touching reading at the funeral service of her beloved aunt, Phyl.
What is dying? I am standing on the sea shore. A ship sails and spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says, "She is gone." Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her...The diminished size and loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at that moment when someone at my side says "She is gone", there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, "There she comes!"
Margaret, in her book says "And so I saw the great beached hulk of Auntie Phyl's body, stranded on her hard, high, care-home bed, launching off from its moorings, free again, sailing into another world.
The author's childhood was in England, and one of the first issues with understanding this book is that it deals with people we aren't familiar with, places that one probably should understand the differences between Engilish villages and English towns to make perfect sense of her remarks, references to older famous writers who never passed into the Enlish Lit books of college, and as usual, the difficulty with English (Is "squash" a vegetable in England? No, it is a soft drink.")
But I'm finding in this book.... well, here a gem of a paragraph, there a gem of a recollection, - a virtual treasure chest full of things that touch me. I'm plowing on through the book, page by page, It's not easy reading, but I am certainly finding satisfaction abounding. I have no intention of stopping anytime soon!