Saturday 2 May 2009

Raking the Ashes

Raking the Ashes by Anne Fine. I picked this up in the library the other day because I once read 'Telling Liddy' and really enjoyed it. I did not enjoy this one. Which is a strange thing to say when I started it Thursday and sat up until 11pm last night to finish the book. It only really has two characters, and they are both so awful it became compulsive reading. The comment from the Observer on the front cover says; " there is something terrifyingly recognisable in each of the characters that will have readers looking deep inside their souls", and never was a truer comment made about a book. I kept reading and thinking 'do I do that?' They are not nice people, both weak and selfish and their relationship is just about the worst I have ever read, and you get some pretty dysfunctional relationships in books. Tilly is an engineer who works on oil rigs, she lives her life exactly as it pleases her, coming and going at her own convenience, having lovers and taking her partner, Geoff, totally for granted. Geoff, on the surface, is a wonderful man. He pampers and indulges Tilly, takes care of her, but at the same time remains under the thumb of his ex-wife. He is so desperate for an easy life that he brushes over and refuses to acknowledge any problems or difficulties, thinking that if he ignores them they will go away. But Tilly is right when she says that she is simply a thing on a pedestal, to be adored but never treated as part of his family. His two children come in and out of his life, and to give Tilly her due she does seem to work quite hard to forge a relationship with them, even doing her best to offer care and support when their mother develops cancer. But all through their relationship she is left on the sidelines of his family. It seems out of character, because in reality she has no desire to be 'in' the family, but just seems to resent the exclusion on principle. Geoff meanwhile is frittering away all his assets, his business, his own flat and father's house, all to provide his ex-wife with money for wacky alternative therapies. He is such a doormat you wonder at times why they got divorced in the first place because she still seems to love walking all over him. So they potter through nearly 20 years like this, Tilly planning to leave every time she discovers some new slight, Geoff living in his own little wonderland where nothing bad ever happens, kidding himself that everything will come out all right. I found I hardly cared whether she left or not, because in reality they kind of deserved each other, but I wanted to see what twist she gave to the ending.... and all in all I doubt that Tilly ever felt a moment of remorse.

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