A couple of months ago, we watched a deer float through our garden. It was weightless, quiet, made of grace. A few minutes later, we drove out to the main road, saw that some cars had stopped, and saw the deer lying on the ground. They are so fast, it must have happened just moments after we had seen it. We were so sad for the deer. For its quietness, its speed, its delicate feet. For its private pathways, which had woven through our own. We tried to tell ourselves: there will be other deer.
One evening, about three weeks ago, Michael called out to me – ‘Mel, get out here now.’ I raced out in my socks into the grey mist, and there they were: three of them, tiny, like shadows of air, treading silently away from us. I nearly cried.
And this evening they were back. The three of them, with their mother. Munching our overgrown lawn.
My book blog died in the final stages of my PhD. I couldn’t bear to write about books other than the ones I was focussed on day and night. Also the only books I could bear to read for pleasure at that point had to be very undemanding. Ian Rankin as bedtime reading was about all I could handle. But slowly this changed. Especially once I finished teaching this May, I realized I needed more to get my head around.
Reading this year has been directed mainly by what I had to read for the class I taught and what stray unread books I could find on my shelves, but there has been a couple of exceptions. I’ve also probably forgotten a couple.
Books for teaching:
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. Not what I expected, and really interesting.
A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster. The second time I’ve read this. Really enjoyed it.
Brick Lane, by Monica Ali. I enjoyed it but wasn’t sure she quite deserved all the praise lavished in the dust-jacket quotes. I don’t think she’s quite ‘the next Salman Rushdie’.
The Stars of the New Curfew, by Ben Okri. Very strange. Gave me nightmares.
Waiting for the Barbarians, by J. M. Coetzee. He really is a genius.
Books I bought:
Home, by Marilynne Robinson. I bought this in the University Bookshop, after loving loving loving Gilead a year or two ago. Penni has a few things to say about it, and I agree entirely. One of the most beautiful books I have ever read. My Mum read them both when she was visiting and also adored them. But she read Home first, and on reflection I really think you should read Gilead first.
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. I bought this in Oslo airport, on my way to my summer holidays in the States. Best holiday reading ever, I didn’t want it to end. I finished it in Austria, and my Dad picked it up and pretty much didn’t put it down till he’d finished it either. Despite devoting many spare hours to cross-stitching Henry and his wives, I don’t actually know terribly much Tudor history, and this made me wish I did. The portrait of Cromwell was completely different from what I expected and my Dad and I both wondered whether he really was more like this than the monster he is more commonly portrait as, or whether this was a romanticized view. In any case, he is a completely compelling character.
Foe, by J. M. Coetzee. Also bought this in the university bookshop, but left it sitting on my shelves for long after I finished teaching. Strange and playful and not at all what I had expected. It’s a retelling of Robinson Crusoe from the perspective of a woman who claims she was written out of the final version. It muses on storytelling and power and authority and speaking and not-speaking, but in much more complex ways than I had first thought.
Books found on my shelves or pinched from Michael:
The Lost Dog, by Michelle de Kretser. I guess I’m a bit behind the eightball reading this now. I think Mum left it behind from an earlier trip from Australia two years ago. Some of the passages were incredibly beautiful and the two main characters were clever and interesting and I enjoyed it… But I can’t rave about it the way that many of my favourite bloggers do.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. Pinched from Michael. Quite gripping after a questionable opening fifty pages or so. Michael’s first comment when reading it was – I can see why middle aged men like this book. Unfortunately I couldn’t read the rest of the trilogy as Michael bought them on his ipad and that’s a bit difficult to wrest from his grasp.
Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson. A Norwegian novel. Quite beautiful. I recommend it. (Haha see how detailed my reviews are?)
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. Michael picked this up in Walmart a few trips to America ago, but gave up after fifty pages or so. I had heard of it when it first came out, and one of my friends teaches it at her school. I can’t say I was that impressed. The opening pages are pretty gruesome and the closing pages are exceedingly soppy. I thought what she was trying to do was quite interesting but the resolutions felt too sappy-sweet for me. (Also parts of it were pretty weird – fourteen year old girl who has been raped and murdered comes back to life for an hour and a half in her friend’s body in order to ‘make love’ to her high-school sweetheart, whom she only ever kissed once???)
Books still on the shelf (meaning either I acquired them ages ago but haven’t got around to reading yet, or they are old ones belonging to Michael):
Carpentaria, by Alexis Wright
Joan Makes History, by Kate Grenville
Midnight’s Children, by Salmon Rushdie
The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov
Catch 22, by Joseph Heller
Which one should I start with? Or should I go and get something else?
It was a weekend more reminiscent of the gorgeous sunny visit to my brother last September than the rainy but lovely couple of days we spent there this May. Sigh. I would love to live in Berlin. I have thought so for ten years, and every time I visit I think it even more.
We went to our favourite pizza place twice, ate many falafels, waffles, and seriously good slow breakfasts.
We did one day of touristy things with my aunt, before deciding to leave them to it and sticking to the cafes, parks and flea markets.
Michael took lots of pictures. I didn’t take any.
I found an amazing fabric shop and bought fabric covered in fairytale characters, mushrooms, dinosaurs and birds. Now I’m not sure what to do with it – I just chose the ones I liked and didn’t really think about whether they would go together…
This is me gazing wistfully through the locked door on Sunday – I had hoped against hope that I could go in for a second look. (But now I have found the online shop! Hmmm…)
My aunt was super excited – about seeing us, but especially about seeing her son and his wife, who she hadn’t seen for over a year, and who are expecting a baby the same week I am. Here we all are comparing baby bumps:
I’m not sure what Joseph is brewing in this one:
The leaves were just about to turn.
Lots more photos here.
All’s well. Just starting to get a belly that doesn’t disappear in the mornings. The jeans I bought at ten weeks are still too loose though. I’m hopeless at buying jeans.
Last week we had an ultrasound. He (yep, he) is beautiful. We saw him stretch his arms above his head, and cross his legs, and hug his chest, and kick his legs like a swimmer and burrow into my side, and curl up like a kitten with his toes above his nose. We saw his sharp white bones and his startling face. We looked at him and we loved him.
I haven’t felt much movement yet, but they tell me I have an anterior placenta which means I probably won’t feel anything for a while.
Berlin was lovely. Sunshine and parks and long slow breakfasts. And it was so nice to see my aunt and my cousins.
Michael is now in Paris but the kittens are keeping me company. They are such social little things and are both snoozing on the desk as I type. (They would snooze on the keyboard if I let them.)
When I get home from work all I want to do is lie on the couch for hours. I really need to find a job that utilizes my skills more effectively. Still. It’s all part of the plan. And it is not a bad job really. (And I am getting lots of practice I suppose!)
Words seem quiet and elusive right now. But I will try to spend more time with them, to coax them back into my garden. (Funny sentence I know, but that’s sort of what it feels like when I try to write – like I’m sitting in an empty garden waiting for the birds to come back.)
It feels like it has taken forever to get to 20 weeks, and that it will take forever to get to 40. But it won’t, I know. This is the tipping point.
for a mini family reunion. Hurrah! See you when I get back.
That’s a lot of sticks. (Norwegian people think English people call logs of wood ‘sticks’. I think that sounds quite sweet so I’m happy to adopt the terminology.)
Actually this is just the first load. We’ve ordered more. Eep!
Michael and our unbelievably helpful neighbour are out there as I type.
I helped for nearly fifty minutes but then my back started seriously complaining. Their backs probably are too, but they aren’t pregnant.
Anyway, I think we owe our neighbour a lot more apple cakes.
We drove past the stone ship and down to the coast, where we got our fill of sun. But the real fun started when we got back to Norway, and our Swedish friend put on a traditional kraftor party at our house.
It involved silly hats, lots of these clawed creatures, and just as much snaps, augmented with wine and beer. Oh, and songs. You were supposed to eat a crayfish or two, sing a swedish song, and knock back a shot of snaps.
I joined in the singing even if I couldn’t indulge in the snaps. It was quite entertaining watching everyone else get more and more plastered. As Michael put it – ‘The party was great. Rocking up at work the next day – not so much.’
At some point we had to sing the Swedish national anthem. All well and good. Until someone translated for us and we realised we’d declared a burning desire to live and to die in the North. This is all very nice for now, but can we take that back?