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Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Book Notes No. 8 : A Partisan's Daughter, Louis de Bernières

Cracking thunder storm last night, doing nothing for Mama's unaccustomed insomnia. Hot, sunny, cloudy and breezy today. Yes, all at the same time.

Once upon a time, Mama (before she was a Mama) travelled with her tent in the South Pacific. On one of the Fijian islands, she visited a village built inside the crater of an extinct volcano and heard about village life from one of the residents, who had studied and qualified as the local tour guide. Whenever he began a new episode in his history of his people, he would begin his sentence with, "It says...", as if he carried with him a huge invisible (and, I imagined, dusty) book in which his forefathers had written down the stories and facts he was now 'reading' to us. This verbal tic endowed everything he had to impart to us with a certain gravity, with the full weight of his cultural history, and I could see that the other westerners with me were listening with unaccustomed respect to this man's version of reality.

In Louis de Bernière's new novel, A Partisan's Daughter, Roza, the storyteller (for like Salman Rushdie's latest, this is another book about storytelling), has a similar tic, but with the opposite effect. She often says, "I told him...", or "That's what I told him...". "I told him that after he was a partisan, my father was a secret policeman..." And as these expressions appear and reappear, the reader, who at first is carried along with Roza's colourful story, starts to get the feeling that perhaps what she's telling him isn't quite the truth.

A Partisan's Daughter is a love story, set, to my great nostalgic pleasure, in the 1970s, the age of the brown Austin Allegro, Sebastian Coe at his fastest, and The Police singing 'Roxanne'.

In a derelict building in Highgate.

Unlike Birds Without Wings, the terrifying brutality of which I couldn't bear, here de Bernieres proves his ability to write the subtle sadness of opportunities missed, relationships gone cold and lumpy, realities misunderstood. And as the reader grasps for threads of truth, and as it slithers and slips around, there's a little voice somewhere that says love means resisting the temptation to tell the ultimate lie.

Read it.

2 comments:

Addicted To Bags said...

I heard fiji is heaven on earth . what is your opinion about it?

Louise said...

Fiji is very beautiful, yes. And the native Fijiians are a pleasure to meet and get to know. They cook the most delicious fresh fish and their music is delightful. When I was there, the tourist industry was still in its infancy. I hope things haven't changed too much. Fiji is well worth a visit!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Book Notes No. 8 : A Partisan's Daughter, Louis de Bernières

Cracking thunder storm last night, doing nothing for Mama's unaccustomed insomnia. Hot, sunny, cloudy and breezy today. Yes, all at the same time.

Once upon a time, Mama (before she was a Mama) travelled with her tent in the South Pacific. On one of the Fijian islands, she visited a village built inside the crater of an extinct volcano and heard about village life from one of the residents, who had studied and qualified as the local tour guide. Whenever he began a new episode in his history of his people, he would begin his sentence with, "It says...", as if he carried with him a huge invisible (and, I imagined, dusty) book in which his forefathers had written down the stories and facts he was now 'reading' to us. This verbal tic endowed everything he had to impart to us with a certain gravity, with the full weight of his cultural history, and I could see that the other westerners with me were listening with unaccustomed respect to this man's version of reality.

In Louis de Bernière's new novel, A Partisan's Daughter, Roza, the storyteller (for like Salman Rushdie's latest, this is another book about storytelling), has a similar tic, but with the opposite effect. She often says, "I told him...", or "That's what I told him...". "I told him that after he was a partisan, my father was a secret policeman..." And as these expressions appear and reappear, the reader, who at first is carried along with Roza's colourful story, starts to get the feeling that perhaps what she's telling him isn't quite the truth.

A Partisan's Daughter is a love story, set, to my great nostalgic pleasure, in the 1970s, the age of the brown Austin Allegro, Sebastian Coe at his fastest, and The Police singing 'Roxanne'.

In a derelict building in Highgate.

Unlike Birds Without Wings, the terrifying brutality of which I couldn't bear, here de Bernieres proves his ability to write the subtle sadness of opportunities missed, relationships gone cold and lumpy, realities misunderstood. And as the reader grasps for threads of truth, and as it slithers and slips around, there's a little voice somewhere that says love means resisting the temptation to tell the ultimate lie.

Read it.

2 comments:

Addicted To Bags said...

I heard fiji is heaven on earth . what is your opinion about it?

Louise said...

Fiji is very beautiful, yes. And the native Fijiians are a pleasure to meet and get to know. They cook the most delicious fresh fish and their music is delightful. When I was there, the tourist industry was still in its infancy. I hope things haven't changed too much. Fiji is well worth a visit!