Saturday, May 24, 2014
The last book I read (every day in May)
This year, our gallery has chosen some pieces of literary fiction and paired them with local artists who are asked to produce an installation in 'the vault'* to match the themes of the book or play.
They then choose a panel to read and review the themes of the written piece, lead by the artist themselves. The panel explores their ideas in front of a greater audience of local book-enthusiasts who munch delectable savouries and sip wine before joining the discussion themselves.
I have really enjoyed the bookclub nights the gallery has put on and, after a wine or two, have even joined in with the discussion that follows. I was very surprised when the gallery asked me to sit on the latest panel to discuss the novel A long, long way by Sebastian Barry.
It wasn't the sort of book I usually read. I do love a book that incorporates a bit of history and I am a fan of books that explore the evolution of spirit. This book was exceptionally dark and violent in places and I was tempted many times to just skip to the ending. For the record, I stuck it out!
It follows the journey of one Willie Dunne, a young Irish lad who finds himself in the thick of war. Gentle scenes of a father tenderly holding young Willie are in stark contrast to the hellish scenes of Flander's Fields that unfold as the book progresses. Graphic depictions of fear and agony are followed by poetic language describing the beautiful countryside.
It then follows poor Willie on his furlough home to a country that is in the grip of its own kind of battle - that between the royalists and nationalists. Poor Willie struggles to make sense of the casualties of war and to make up 'his own mind' about where his place really is.
Barry (who is a highly regarded poet in his native Ireland) inclusion of poetry was to me quite jarring. Many times I was tempted to re-read a passage and explore the poetry of the lines only to feel defeated by the underlying violence of the text.
Although it is emotionally the hardest book I have ever read, I am glad to have read it. I think the story, which is really a tale of heartbreak, endurance and the indefatigability** of the human spirit will stay with me for a long time.
I was aiming for a light-hearted romp after this one (I have a Lauren Child YA fiction on my bedside) but I think I'll be reading 'The Fault in our Stars' by John Green in readiness for the opening of the film.
* Our gallery started life as a bank.
** Yes, that is a real word! Ha!