In Green Water – 06/07/2024

I have been reading Passiontide by Monique Roffey. What starts as a detective story following the death of a young woman at a carnival on a Caribbean island becomes a rage-filled uprising against violence, patriarchy, police, political strictures, sexist media… There’s a vast cast of characters, including the voice of the murdered woman, an inspiring energy and a Lysistrata-esque protest, both funny and poignant.

I’ll write a newsletter where I recommend what to read based on your voting preferences, I thought. Passiontide is for supporters of the Women’s Equality Party. No, hang on: it is more importantly for everyone else, everyone yet to support their cause.

I toyed with the idea. Ought I to recommend Wasteland by Oliver Franklin-Wallis for those who voted Green or for anyone who has ever chuckled at Count Binface?

In the absence of adding a paddleboarding section to the shop, should I suggest that Liberal Democrat voters might enjoy further ideas for adventures on which their leader could go? Perhaps accompanying wolves in helicopters and bunnies on hoverboards or on a deep sea dive?

Panic not; I abandoned the idea when most of Somerset beat me to making this joke.

Nevertheless, if six weeks of election discussions was a mere starter for you and you want to dig into politics further this weekend, I recommend David Runciman’s The History of Ideas and Daniel Chandler’s Free and Equal. The former explores the people behind the complex ideas which have shaped Western politics, including John Rawls, whose philosophy is the subject of Daniel Chandler’s book. Chandler applies Rawls’s ideas to our present, arguing for specific reforms to create a fair society.  

If you would prefer to travel to an island and forget about it all, Storm Pegs: A Life Made in Shetland by Jen Hadfield transports the reader to the edges of the Shetland archipelago to meet its animals and plants and hear the voices of its inhabitants. Hadfield embraces experiences of her extraordinary home wholeheartedly; there is something soothing about kayaking with her into a cave or joining her on a tempestuous boat trip ‘punching into a northerly swell’, whilst reading, on land, under a blanket that does not smell of herring…

Secluded peace can also be found in Notes from an Island a depiction written in sparing language and drawn in stunning aquatints of Klovharun, the island on which Tove Jansson and Tuulikki Pietila stayed each summer.

I spent yesterday evening returning to Paris, via Venice and Cannes, following my (also figurative) trip there a few weeks ago, with Green Water, Green Sky by Mavis Gallant. With Gallant one enters the conflicting thoughts of Florence, her cousin George, her mother Bonnie and her husband Bob. Not much happens. A necklace breaks in Venice. Flor shuts the curtains. Bonnie almost makes a cutting remark to Bob. The writing shifts between viewpoints seamlessly, while the characters are all seems and edges, stuck together but without understanding. They are observers, judging strangers and each other. To one, Flor looks as though she had bitten a lemon every time he speaks to her. To another, Bob looks like a man who had come into a station only to find all the trains leaving at impossible times. Water, sky, eyes, hats, tabletops and migraines are every kind of green. It’s glorious.

Youngers readers may wish to escape too:

  • Perhaps to Coney (I know it’s not actually an) Island, in The Houdini Inheritance by Emma Carroll: Glory and Dennis are delighted to see Harry Houdini perform in their little seaside town. They even bring a trick to the show and outsmart the great man. Or so they think. Having impressed Houdini, not to mention his wife and her dog Eric, he needs something from them, triggering an adventure across the Atlantic to the ultimate vaudeville show.
  • Perhaps to Brooklyn, in Hot Dog by Doug Salati, in which a hot dog, itself resembling a hot dog, needs to escape being so hot. Time to leave the city for the sea.
  • Perhaps to another world in The Ogre Who Wasn’t by Michael Morpurgo and Emily Gravett, in which Clara, who collects and befriends creepy crawlies and odd creatures, stashing them under her bed, discovers that she has mis-categorised the ogre living in her shoe. Hey, we’ve all done it.

Do join us next week for a game of chess at the short fiction book group and/or for a performance of poetry here in the shop.

May your weekend evoke rich greens,

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