Monday, 17 October 2022

The Rabbit Hutch

'The Rabbit Hutch' by Tess Gunty. I have come to the conclusion that I have now read so many books that almost everything I read reminds me of something else I have read. The Rabbit Hutch reminded me of Chronicle of a Death Foretold, because it begins with Blandine dying, with the rest of the book leading up to that death. However, unlike Chronicle, I felt a huge sense of tension as I read; it was if she was suspended on that moment of dying while I was reading. The book follows Blandine, her flat mates and some of the other residents of the Rabbit Hutch, but also Elsie, a child actor now dead old lady, and her son Moses. They are not necessarily lives that are interlinked by anything other than proximity. Blandine is a young woman searching for meaning, aren't we all, and seems to have found it in ancient mystics and ecoterrorism. Set in the city of Vacca Vale, who's car industry has died to leave a decaying infrastructure and terminal community decline, and in a housing complex that leaves its occupants dehumanised and vulnerable. But there is very little self-pity in any of the characters, they have all found a way to cope. I was surprisingly not depressed by their tale, it felt very fly-on-the-wall observational, not asking you to be part of it. The characters were all interesting people and their stories crossed over in unexpected ways. 
Here Moses, who has all kinds of issues, and an incident from his childhood, which made my heart break:

"Marianne yanked her hands free from his grasp, flipped him off, then marched to the kitchen. Moses felt sorry for her, although even at twelve he knew that he could not trust feelings inspired by the beautiful. He felt tears dancing and scrambled to construct a blockade.
'Elsie, you must do something,' said Sabine. 'Look, your child is hurt. We have hurt your child.'
'My child?' said Elsie. She turned and looked at Moses for the first time, her face closed up like a shop after hours. 'I've never seen this boy before.'" (p.162-3)

And here Joan, another Rabbit Hutch resident, has been chatting to local homeless woman, thoughts referring back to an earlier assertion that she had plastic plants and 'aspired' to own live ones one day:

"First the girl at the laundromat, now Penny. Joan managed a sort of genetic predisposition towards invisibility for forty years, and then, within the span of two days, two strangers solicited her autobiography without apparent reason. It's moments like these when Joan fears she is the subject in some elaborate, federally funded psychology experiment. Abruptly, Joan understands why so many celebrities develop addictions. She feels like a demanding and ill-fated houseplant, one that needs light in every season but will die in direct sun, one whose soil requires daily water but will drown if it receives too much, one that takes a fertiliser only sold at a store that's open three hours a day, one that thrives in neither dry nor humid climates, one that's prone to every pest and disease. What kind of attention would make Joan feel at home? Who would ever work that hard to administer it? She will never own live houseplants." (p.239)

I had to race through it as it is on a waiting list for other people and was returned to the library this morning. I wish my brain had the attention span to spend more time on my reviews. I wish I was thinking harder about my reading. At least I am still reading. I only keep reviewing in the hope that motivation will return at some point. I picked up 'The Book of Form and Emptiness' by Ruth Ozeki (who I have read and loved) that is also on a short loan. 

Stay safe. Be kind. Keep going anyway.

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