Sunday, July 31, 2005
Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson
This is an amazing book. "Some people say that the best stories have no words. They weren't brought up on lighthousekeeping. It is true that the words drop away, and that the important things are often left unsaid. The important things are learned in faces, in gestures, not in our locked tongues. Words are part of the silence that can be spoken." excerpt from Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson. The woman who sold me this book at Borders Books and Music said she raves about it to her friends, and that it is her favorite book of the year. She was a young gal, and probably had as little in common with me, a 40-something, as possible, yet I felt a connection with her in her love of juicy prose. I'd been putting off buying this book because it's a hardback, and they are expensive, and now is not the time to buy expensive books in my household. But I couldn't deny this young clerk, or myself, the pleasure of a great read, so I threw caution to the winds and bought it, along with three other trade paperback books, The Hotflash Club, Three Junes and a historical fiction novel about Ireland. It turns out that I was right to invest in Lighthousekeeping, which is an ache of a book, poignant and rife with succulent paragraphs that are all the richer for their sparseness. Winterson's prose is rather like that of Hemingway, but devoid of his macho BS posturing. It's lean, spare and yet not at all wasteful of each carefully-chosen adjective. There is a great deal of thought, of internalized emotion, and of solitude of soul in this book, which tells the story of Silver and old Pew, Mr Dark and Molly, and the dried twig of Mrs Pinch, so very aptly named. The clean prose only serves to help us delineate the characters and their lives against the backdrop of night, and death and life. I get the strong feeling that the fine line between genius and madness is something that Winterson has struggled with herself, and it has boiled away all foolishness in a kind of life-crucible. This is the kind of book that is refreshing to read after a long, hot day, when complications arrise like house spiders from the corners and come after you en mass. Once the battle is won, this book will read like a reward. I highly recommend it.