Tag-Archive for ◊ Mattie ◊

Author:
• Friday, October 24th, 2008

Susie Vereker, daughter of an army officer, was born in the Lake District in northern England. She spent a great deal of her life travelling, first with her parents and later with her diplomat husband. She was in Germany, Thailand, Australia, Greece, Switzerland and France, and spent much of her life trying to adapt to the countries and their traditions.

She became a widow in 2001 after a long and happy marriage, has three sons, and now lives in a small Hampshire village in the south of England. Susie Vereker was nominated for the RNA Foster Grant Award 2006, for her novel Pond Lane and Paris.

Susie Vereker has written three books to date:
Pond Lane and Paris published in 2005.
An Old-Fashioned Arrangement published in 2006.
Paris Imperfect will be published in December 2008.

An Old-Fashioned Arrangement, like the Pilot’s wife by Anita Shreve, commences with a wife who receives the visit of her husband’s office colleagues, at home early one morning. They announce his death in a plane crash in the Indonesian jungle, while on a business trip. Bewildered and under the shock, Kim, the charismatic and life-like main character, tries to gather all her strength in order to sort things out for the sake of her 11-year old son, James. Like Kathryn did the best she could to protect her 16-year old daughter Mattie in The Pilot’s Wife.

But unlike The Pilot’s Wife, the atmosphere in the Old-Fashioned Arrangement is less gloomy, less cold and oppressive. The story takes place in beautiful, peaceful and wealthy Geneva, which contrasts with the state of destitution that English expatriate Kim finds herself thrown into after her husband’s sudden, unexpected death. She is penniless, she has been following her unreliable, egoistic husband, Richard, round the world without any pension or cover scheme, even the money in their bank account has been withdrawn by him.

She will now have to leave the comfortable house in the privileged Genevan suburb, Cologny, within a month, without knowing where to go. Her Swiss neighbour and landlord, Henri, who always silently fancied her, besides liking her son James, proposed “An Old- Fashioned Arrangement” to her. “The arrangement” was meant to help Kim solve her financial problems and lead a care free life without uprooting her young son.

Kim is in her forties and Henri is a refined old gentleman who loves women. For her to become his mistress is against her ethics. She goes through a dilemma before accepting the proposal, but finally, having no family, hardly any friends and no home base due to her nomadic life, Kim sees no other choice but to follow her female instinct and succumbs to the offer. She accepts the deal for the security of herself and her son and not out of love.

But she will end up loving and caring for her guardian angel, Henri, to the extent of refusing the advances of Mark, the handsome English diplomat she happened to meet after her relationship with Henri. But after Henri dies, Kim who now knows the taste of freedom, will take more care before accepting to marry Mark. She will want to know him better before tying her life to his. Age and experience have taught Kim to be wiser, rational and less emotional.

Kim didn’t love her husband, Richard. She was even thinking of a divorce and his death would have been a relief if it wasn’t for the lack of money to survive. All these years she depended on her husband and now she will learn,at last,what it feels like to be emancipated.

The characters in the novel are very realistic, humane and well portrayed, any woman in the world can identify with Kim’s big problem, which makes it difficult for readers not to feel involved, especially with the author’s endearing and humoristic style of writing.

Although lighthearted, this novel treats a serious issue and has several unexpected suspense elements, in combination with a few twists, which makes it difficult to put down.

Category: Book Reviews  | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  | Leave a Comment
Author:
• Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Anita Shreve was born in Dedham Massachusetts in 1946 from an airline pilot father and a housewife mother. She graduated from Tufts University. She worked as high school teacher at Amherst College, Massachusetts. She started writing her novels while working. She was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1975 for her book “Past The Island, Drifting”.

She then stopped writing fiction in the late 1970s and worked as a journalist in Nairobi, Kenya for three years. She wrote for Quest magazine, US magazine, New York Times and New York magazine. She decided to give up journalism and dedicate herself full-time to writing fiction. Her books were translated into many languages and she won The Pen L.L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. She currently lives between Longmeadow Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Anita Shreve wrote several novels :
Eden Close in 1989.
Strange Fits of Passion in 1991.
Where or When in 1993.
Resistance in 1995.
The Weight of Water in 1997.
The Pilot’s Wife in 1998.
Fortune’s Rocks in 2000.
Sea Glass in 2002.

She wrote non-fiction books :
Dr. Balter’s Child Sense in 1985.
Dr. Balter’s Baby Sense in 1985.
Working Woman in 1986.
Remaking Motherhood in 1987.
Who’s in Control in 1988.
Women Together, Women Alone in 1989.

Kathryn is the pilot’s wife and she is the main character of the novel. The story is about her tragedy, her distress, her love, her deceit and her rage, and how she has to deal with the initial shock when she is woken up in the middle of the night by a knock on the door to be told by Robert Hart, the pilot’s union employee, that her husband died in a plane crash with 103 passengers, 10 miles off the coast of Ireland and that there were no survivors.

The novel is divided in two parts, the first half describes in simple, clear prose Kathryn’s struggle to deal with her shock, loss and grievance, while trying to pull herself together for the sake and protection of her 16-year old daughter Mattie, with the help of the kind Robert Hart.

This part holds some hints to prepare readers for what follows in the second half which is full of unexpected painful revelations, challenging Kathryn’s prowess to deal with the truth of her marriage and what has become of it. What appeared at the beginning to be a sad and quiet story turns out to be a gripping one, a thriller combined with the difficult defiance between loss, love and betrayal but also about some hope for the future.

Anita Shreve manages to make a good, captivating read out of a banal, common theme of betrayal and adultery.

Kathryn finds it very hard to bring together her happy memory of a stable, peaceful and uneventful married life in a beautiful home overlooking the ocean in Ely, New Hampshire, a bright teenage daughter, with a husband she cared for dearly, and thought that she knew, with the harsh deceitful reality of who Jack really was. A mixed feeling of grief and danger which triggers her determination to seek the truth at any cost after hearing all the unbelievable rumours, and after discovering various pieces of paper in Jack’s pocket and in his bath-robe with initials and phone numbers which she knew nothing about. She was ready to go through it all even if its outcome turns out to be devastating for her. In any case Kathryn knew that nothing will ever be the same again.

Anita Shreve portrays Kathryn’s confusion and disbelief in switching the chapters constantly from the present with all it’s unpleasantness and cruel devastation, to flashes of the serene, tranquil and more reassuring past. She has masterfully succeeded in conveying Kathryn’s feelings by contrasting the two lives through juxtaposition.

Anita Shreve’s books are often categorized under “women’s novels” due to her acquired art of describing women’s distressful feelings and sensibilities. The Pilot’s Wife appears to be a puzzle that Kathryn tries throughout the novel to unravel piece by piece. She thought she knew her husband but found out that she was living with a complete stranger she knew nothing about.

The readers are aware of that through what Mattie was telling her mother about the rumour that the pilot committed suicide : “Mattie you knew your father.” “Maybe”. “What does that mean ?” “Maybe I didn’t know him” Mattie said. “Maybe he was unhappy”. “If your father was unhappy, I’d have known.” “But how do you ever know that you know a person ?” she asked. What Kathryn didn’t know is that no matter how well you know a loved one intimately, there is always a little secret garden that each one keeps to oneself.

After meeting Muire Boland, Jack’s second wife and seeing their two children, Kathryn was overwhelmed with the sad and crude reality of her suspicion, which led her to drive all the way to the Irish coast, where the plane crashed. She decided to unburden herself from the weight she was carrying by throwing her wedding ring into the sea to join Jack at the bottom of the ocean. She wanted a new start by getting rid of the past and like that the healing operation can take place.

The Pilot’s Wife is an easy, readable book, the style is clear and simple. The plot was progressing well but then the author decided to end the story abruptly leaving a couple of loose threads untied.
The involvement of Jack with the IRA which led to the plane explosion was not explained sufficiently, and the relationship between Kathryn and Robert Hart was left undeveloped.

Anita Shreve was asked in an interview where did she get the idea for The Pilot’s Wife? She answered : “A novel is a collision of ideas. Three or four threads may be floating around in the writer’s consciousness, and at a single moment in time, these ideas collide and produce a novel… I overheard a conversation between a pilot and a woman at a party. Something he said lodged in my consciousness and wouldn’t go away. The thing he said was : When there’s a crash, the union always gets there first. He meant that when there was a crash of a commercial airliner, a member of the pilot’s union made it a point to get to the pilot’s wife house first. There are a lot of reasons for this, the most important of which is to keep her from talking to the press. And there was a collision of ideas.” which produced The Pilot’s Wife.

Category: Book Reviews  | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  | Leave a Comment