'The Sixteen Trees of the Somme' by Lars Mytting (translated by Paul Russell Garrett) was one of those 'mysterious thing happens to character in childhood that he has to get to the bottom of' stories. An enjoyable meander from Norway to Scotland to France and back again. A lack of female characters annoyed me somewhat; the two young women vying for his sexual favours were one dimensional, but the narrative disclosure was very satisfying and the details around wood production were surprisingly engaging. Generally nicely written, well woven into the background history of the events and very atmospheric. Here Edvard is with the undertaker after his grandfather has died:
"She emerged from the back room wearing dark-grey office clothes. Walked around the counter, shook my hand and did not let go. She said nothing, but gave me to understand that I had been expected. At first I thought that this was a silence was meant for all types of bereaved: parents who were broken for life, having had to order a small coffin; the spouses of tyrants who were happy the bastard had finally gone. But Rannveig Landstad's silence flowed inside me like a sedative, and all at once - for the first time in ages - it felt as if I had something in common with others in the village. Other people had stood here and felt the same way, stood here shaken and destroyed in the antechamber of the churchyard, and I was not ashamed that I was red-eyed and out of sorts having wandered around the entire night burrowing through papers before lying sleepless, staring at the clock." (p.73)
I was a little disappointed by 'Postcards' by E. Annie Proulx, but only because I did not enjoy it anything like as much as 'The Shipping News' (which predates the blog so no review, another book I should reread some time). Loyal Blood rapes and kills his girlfriend, and to cover his crime pretends they are running away together. He never comes back, but keeps in touch with his family through a series of postcards. The book follows the different family members down their various paths in life. It is in essence a portrait of poor, rural America in the period from the end of the war; there is something of the American Dream for the family who's fortunes wax and wane over the years, sometimes by their choices and actions, sometimes by sheer chance. I was about to say it was another book without decent women characters, but then found that the quote I have is about Jewell, his mother, learning to drive after the father dies:
"Did men, she wondered, have this feeling of lightness, of wiping out all troubles when they got into their cars or trucks? Their faces did not show any special pleasure when they drove. Men understood nothing of the profound sameness, week after week, after month of the same narrow rooms, treading the same worn footpaths to the clothesline, the garden. You soon knew it all by heart. Your mind closed in to the problems of cracked glass, feeling for pennies in linty coat pockets, sour milk. You couldn't get away from troubles. They came dragging into the mirror with you, fanning over the snow, filled the dirty sink. Men couldn't imagine women's lives, they seemed to believe, as in a religion, that women were numbed by an instinctive craving to fill the wet mouths of babies, predestined to choose always the petty points of life on which to hang their attention until at last all ended and began with the orifices of the body. She had believed this herself. And wondered in the blue nights if what she truly felt now was not the pleasure of driving but being cast free of Mink's furious anger. He had crushed her into a corner of life." (p.143)
Looking forward to being on leave next week and enjoying some books in the garden, but will probably just stare into space and then beat myself up about wasting the time. Wish I could go somewhere but whatever ...
Stay safe. See you tomorrow (maybe).