Is the past worth anything? Is there value in tracing its DNA in what we see today, or is it better to push on at the vanguard, look for the future in what exists today?
Whichever way you view this question, it is apparent that it’s the lessons of the past, learned or not, that are bred in the bones of the present; that whether you look back to a golden age, or forward to a bright future, you are inherently sunk in the breeding of tomorrow’s bones. It’s inescapable.
There’s an undercurrent of humour in this book that I didn’t notice until I discovered I was actually reading the words with my tongue nestled against my cheek.
But what is plenty? What is not? Can one tell the difference?
Life is never a straight line. Rather, it is peaks and troughs, hills and valleys, fasting and feasting. Where there is feast for one, how often does it mean there is fast for another. How poignant is the final scene. When we’re so used to feasting on what we think we want we have no idea how to react to the offer of what it is that we most need. How many times is a simple act of kindness misunderstood when it’s the act we should recognise, rather than the material it involves.
This is not a book about food.
I’ve been on both sides of the school-age bully scenario; I’m not sure which made me shiver more, Elaine’s churning isolation or Cordelia’s needy wrangling. Both are undoubtedly spot on. This book is an uncomfortable journey through a tremulous childhood, and the latter-day guilty responses chime like a fine brass bell. There’s a reason they call them formative years. The games we play and the things we do as we learn to be adults; we tend to think in terms of how they shape us into the person we’ve become, but we rarely look at the fact that it’s what we bring with us as much as what we overcome that blinkers the way we behave when we’re older.
Here there’s a keen ear for the off-hand voice, the defensive, the closed-down, protective, damage limitation mentality. Each act, each choice is a venture into a possible world of pain, and in the closing line of the chapter Unified Field Theory the word choice for the denouement is supreme: a childish phrase for a child-like act of will.
As ever, Margaret Atwood’s ear for a concise phrase is something akin to a frosty pleasure. ‘Scraped naked’ – imbibe the awkwardness