Wednesday 8 April 2009

Mourning Ruby

Mourning Ruby by Helen Dunmore. I am not sure how I feel about this one. I was worried when I started that it was going to be sentimental, and I really wasn't in the mood for that, but it wasn't. In fact I am not sure what it was. It is not about Ruby, and not really about Rebecca, the woman who is mourning her. Firstly it is about Joe, with whom she shares a flat and has an intense friendship. Then it is about Adam, his friend, with whom she falls in love and marries, and has Ruby. And then it is about Mr Damiano, who offers her a job, that is really a place to hide, after Ruby dies and she does not know what else to do. I think we are back to the whole 'loss' theme, and what it does to people and how they cope and how it changes their lives. So long tracts of the book are then taken up with Mr Damiano's story, which though quite interesting in itself, I found it a little disconnected from the rest of the book. Joe is meanwhile living in Russia trying to write a book about Stalin, but is bogged down instead in the story of his second wife, who killed herself. Instead he starts writing a novel, for Rebecca it seems, about a woman who gives up her life to make her child safe, and the book includes long transcripts from the novel which he sends to her to read; again interesting in itself but somewhat apart from the rest of the story. Adam is also hiding, behind his work, and waiting, possibly for Rebecca to return, or perhaps just waiting. Almost abruptly at the end of the book they both reach a point where they can mourn their daughter together without it destroying them, where they can remember her life without the overhanging regret of what she lost. The reviews on the cover gave the book high praise but maybe the subtlety was lost on me as I found it rather cobbled together as if she was not sure exactly what she wanted to say about parenthood or loss and recovery or friendship and love.
My book group is reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, which I have already read, and loved, followed by The Time Traveller's Wife, which I have already read, and loved (so much so I may have to read it again), so I can carry on whittling away at the pile by my bed.

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