Archives for posts with tag: Son

Ahead of tomorrow’s announcement, I am finally getting round to a post I have been planning for some time.
I initially set out to read all the Booker Prize longlist, but had only managed six before the shortlist was announced. Of these six, only one made it to the shortlist, which was Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary.

I had not been tempted to read this particular book from Toibin before, despite the fact that I have read many of his earlier works, and loved them. Perhaps my strong atheistic leaning put me off. I mentioned the book and its underlying theme to my teenage daughter. Her immediate reaction was ‘what a clever idea’.

A slim book, the page length of The Testament of Mary is deceptive. This is not a quick read. There is much to consider in every paragraph, in every sentence of the single chapter story. Mary’s voice and thoughts guide us through the narrative, which is predominantly one of loss and suffering as she mourns the life and death of her son.

“…I have forgotten how to smile. I have no further need for smiling. Just as I have no further need for tears.”

Very much the story of a mother’s loss and unrelenting grief, which is the book is indeed a clever and surprising take on the ‘traditional’ story of Mary, of her son, and of his death on the cross. I have no idea whether Toibin intended the book to have religious undertones or not.

For this atheist, I found it deeply moving as a lingering and insightful narrative about the humanness of suffering.

“It was a strange period during which I tried not to think, or imagine, or dream, or even remember, when the thoughts that came arrived unbidden and were to do with time – time that turns a baby who is so defenceless into a small boy, with a boy’s fears, insecurities and petty cruelties, and then creates a young man, someone with his own mind and thoughts and secret feelings.”

CQ

Hearing about the imminent arrival of a new meningitis vaccine, I thought immediately of one of the best books I have ever read.

I bought Michael Rosen’s Sad Book (Michael Rosen & Quentin Blake, London: Walker Books, 2004) a few years ago, mainly as a way of exploring the meaning and expression (and alrightness) of sadness with my daughter.

Re-reading it now, I am again struck by its wonderfulness, by Rosen’s ability to convey sadness so meaningfully in few words, and which is so imaginatively enhanced by Blake’s drawings.

The book arose from Rosen’s grief following the sudden death of his 18 year old son Eddie from meningitis in 1999. Primarily about his sadness over the loss of Eddie, it also includes the loss of his mother, as well as loss in general as part of all our lives.

Rosen challenges pre-conceptions. The very first image is that of a grinning Rosen. Below the picture he writes:

‘This is me being sad.’

‘…pretending I’m being happy.

I’m doing that because I think people won’t

like me if I look sad.’

On page 3 we are introduced to Eddie:

‘What makes me most sad is when I think

about my son Eddie. He died.’

We see images of Eddie as a child, playing and happy, and then a blank panel, where Eddie should be:

‘…he’s not there any more.’

Although a hugely personal book, there is much here that is generalisable:

Sad is ‘anywhere’, ‘any time’, ‘anyone’:

‘It comes along and finds you.’

And much that is positive:

‘Every night I try to do one thing I can be proud of.’

‘I’m sad, not bad.’

‘Everyday I do one thing that means

I have a good time.’

Rosen also remembers the good times, and shows the power of memory to make loss bearable, and the act of remembering even potentially joyful.

An absolute gem of a book, on a topic that is corporate and universal and touches all our lives.

CQ