JUDY KRAVIS

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Wednesday, 19 December 2018


Good Neighbours is a difficult link on the winter bookshelf. Is it Ask the fellow who cut the hay? or Pond Life? Or, moving into fiction, F.M. Mayor The Rector's Daughter?

Walter Rose and F.M. Mayor were born a year apart in the south of England; his portrait and her novel are grounded in the same reality but daily lives barely intersect on their pages. The landed and the religious keep a respectful distance from Walter Rose's village, as the nitty gritty of pig and plough is separate from the classical Rector and his dutiful daughter in fictional Dedmayne, though some characters do good work in the village, and find it easier to talk to villagers than to their social peers. The rector's daughter confides most freely in Cook and in one surprising sentence we find a parson's wife teaching carpentry to village boys.

Typical of me that I put myself to bed for the day (yesterday) with several books and several sheets of paper for notes then slip into non-reading non-sleeping emerging only to finish The Rector's Daughter and then, after cursory scan of possible relatives on the shelves, start reading it again, like a child who can't wait to know it well enough to anticipate every word.

This is bookish occupation, imagination as absolute seeing, guaranteed by words and sometimes pictures. The comfort of knowing, of being there more than ever.
Our brain, after all, are always at work on some quivers of self-organisation, however faint, and it is from this that an order arises, in places beautiful and comforting, though more cruel too, than the previous state of ignorance.   
W. G. Sebald

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