Happy Australia Day everyone! I hope you all had as good a day as we did. We enjoyed a fantastic BBQ, good friends and a swim in the pool. Although I didn’t once sing the national anthem, I felt our day spent enjoying Australian past times was sufficiently patriotic! What did you all get up to?
This weeks book is a good old-fashioned, skeletons in the closet, family secrets kind of story. Written in a very ‘Bronte Sisters’ style, it takes a few pages to adjust to the tone but once you’ve got it the language is rather beautiful, possessing a quality often only found in the ‘classics’.
The story begins in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia Canada where James Piper, a determined entrepreneur, meets 13-year-old Materia, the eldest daughter of a rags to riches Lebanese family. In their home to tune the family piano, James instead finds himself in love. He secretly courts Materia in the following weeks and soon enough they have eloped. Upon discovery they are disowned by Materia’s family and find themselves friendless and alone in an out-of-the-way town. The story spells out the recipe for disaster at every turn. It’s not unexpected when Materia doesn’t warm to the role of wife, housekeeper and mother nor when James wonders how this little girl ensnared him with her seduction. Materia is like a ghost, lost with no identity or family, and no longer the object of James affections. It is her children who eventually give her life joy, and it is them, the four Piper sister who’s lives we trace through this epic.
Against the backdrop of early twentieth century Canada and New York the girls lives weave through religion, rebellion, mystery, memories, music, death, love and hope. Each sister is so unique and so defined by her experience, memories and history. They are interesting characters and the heart of this novel is in their relationships and the way they shape each others lives.
I actually really enjoyed this book, which surprised me because I often have difficulty with books that are too tragic. I think the reason is because the characters, though vivid, multifaceted and deeply constructed, were at the end of the day just characters. I didn’t find myself deeply involved with them, trying to warn them off decisions or rejoicing in their triumphs. And although I have considered this to be of my own doing, on further reflection I actually think it has been a tactical move by the author. By keeping the reader at arm’s length she almost has permission to take her story anywhere she wants it to go. There is after all no fear of offending the sensibilities of her readers. Thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think of this idea. Do you totally disagree? Did you get wrapped up in the characters?
It’s easy for me to recommend this book. If you are a Bronte lover, the language alone makes it an enjoyable experience. For everyone else the story, with its twists and turns, mystery and intrigue makes for great reading. It’s not a happy book but I’m gradually learning that that is okay. Something doesn’t have to be lovely to be beautiful or perfect to be memorable.
A warning for the cautious reader, this book contains themes of incest.
Rating: 4 Stars