Thursday, May 19, 2011

The very thought of You - Rosie Alison

“Of all the people we meet in a lifetime, it is strange that so many of us find ourselves in thrall to one particular person.Once that face is seen ,an involuntary heartache sets in for which there is no cure.All the wonder of this world finds shape in that one person and thereafter there is no reprieve ,because this kind of love does not end,or not until death.

For the lucky ones,this love is reciprocated. But for so many others everywhere,anywhere,there follows an unending ache of longing without relief.Incurable love is a great leveler.Yet I believe that this bittersweet love is better by far than the despair which blights those with a dead heart.”

If you loved reading these lines, you’ll love Rosie Alison’s book,The very thought of you. I picked up this book from the library when I spotted a list of accolades and awards the books has been considered for. It’s been shortlisted for Amazon Rising Star award 2009, Long listed for RNA Romantic novel of the year 2010 and Le prince Maurice prize and for Literary short stories 2010.When I spot a book has been nominated for a bunch of literary awards,I involuntarily wonder if I should be reading it, because a lot of such winning books seem to be filled with sad,lonely protagonists.Actually, Rosie’s book is no exception to this rule.But I must confess that it is an immensely readable book.

It is 1939 and the world is in the brink of a war. Thousands of children are evacuated from London to protect them from the bombings that everyone anticipates, with Hitler gaining momentum. Anna sands is an eight year old girl, who is displaced and is sent off to a school for evacuees in a large Yorkshire estate called Ashton Park along with 80 other children.There she meets Mr Ashton, the owner of the estate,a cripple who teaches them Latin ; Elizabeth Ashton, a beautiful ice queen; Ruth Weir ,the plain-Jane teacher who has a lovely way with children among many other minor characters. Ashton park,a rambling house with gardens and sculptures and secret nooks acts as a brilliant tapestry for the undercurrents that run in the household. Anna is a quiet, introspective child,who prefers keeping her own company rather than playing with the other children.

The Ashtons are a childless couple and both pine for a child of their own. Their marriage is on the rocks with both of them having receded into their private shells. They really need a baby to revive the marriage.Elizabeth gets anxious and lives a bohemian double life which nobody knows about. It is her way of escaping her soul- less, passionless existence. Then there is Roberta, Anna’s mother who lives alone in London .With Anne away at Ashton park and her husband away in Egypt in the army, Roberta feels the need for male company and starts seeing a man. Meanwhile at Ashton park, romance is on the cards for Elizabeth as a new guest enters the household.

Suddenly, Anna becomes a witness to things a girl her age shouldn’t witness and in a strange way gets drawn to Thomas and her teacher, Ruth. Will Elizabeth fall in love again? Will she leave Thomas? Will Anna go back to her mother? Will Thomas find love of his own ? Well, for answers to these questions,you need to read the book.

What could have been a wonderful, flowing narrative from the word go, sags because of a lot of flashbacks The book is an essay in melancholy and flows slowly letting us delve more into every character. The 3rd person POV doesn’t work for this book and after a point gets choppy and repetitive as you have all the main characters talking about their loneliness and inadequacies.

The language is beautiful and serenades you, making you fall in love with it. With the war on, the need for comfort in another human being is so heightened that morality and the question of being right or wrong becomes secondary to the guiding emotion itself.The book makes you realize this at every juncture.That a wife is not just a wife, but a woman with hot-blooded passion.A cripple is not just a cripple,but a wounded man who is grappling with questions about his self-worth.

Overall, a lilting book that left its haunting mark on me, despite some minor complaints.

3.5/5 for this lovely, brooding tale.

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