Sunday, 3 December 2006


Hello All!

Believe it or not, and despite all my best intentions, the general busy and exam-ness of my last few weeks has sneakily transformed my bedroom back to its secondary occupation as a landfill site or art installation, depending on how you see it. The fact a small hurricane has swept through my room was pardoned by my parents for the last few weeks firstly because of exams and secondly as I undertook several projects - namely making myself a liquorice allsorts dress and baking a large variety of apple based cakes. Fortunately I can avoid this task no longer without losing my basic freedoms, so here I am, tidying my room. Whilst re-alphabetising my bookshelf (always a pleasant and reassuring task) it came to my attention that Lighthousekeeping, by Jeanette Winterson, has somehow found itself not where it should rightfully be between Wilde and Winton but pride of place as a permanent fixture in my "artfully spontaneous assortment of books i'm currently reading" pile. As i further procrastinate cleaning up, sipping an organic green tea, i shall leave you with some of my thoughts on this book.

The fact is, considering how many times i've read it; this book does deserve to be in this pile. And why have i read it so many times? Firstly, it's really short. Once i even timed myself reading it (i was curious). It took one return train trip to uni, so less than 1.5 hours. Yet for a book that takes such a short time to read the content covered is somewhat amazing. She manages to tell the story of several lives, explore some themes and get all existential in the same amount of words any other author would spend on their introduction. I like her brief style; it's somewhat of a relief. Yet somehow her characters do have depth, even if we can't picture them in detail physically, and the story makes sense, even if it jumps all over the place. Yes, i know this is possibly the most obviously pretentious book. Examples like:

"A beginning, a middle and an end is the proper way to tell a story. But i have difficulty with that method."

are pure gold, but whatever, embrace it i say! Some of it's tacky, clich├ęd or possibly even stupid. But i like it. I do also enjoy the general nautical theme, and i like the cover!

"This is not a love story, but love is in it. That is, love is just outside it, looking for a way to break in."

I'm not going to describe the way "Lighthousekeeping is a way in to the rooms of our own that we secretly inhabit and the lighthouses we strive towards" as the blurb so eloquently puts it, or discuss her storytelling. But i will say, for a book like this, i find it has more integrity than most.
I'm assuming many of you have read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, but has anyone read Gut Symmetries? I read it in April, and it's very similar to Lighthousekeeping, but gets quite science nerdy at times. It too has some awesome wanky lines: "Are your 23 feet of intestines loaded with stars?". Has anyone read it? Or else can recommend any good ones by her or by other similar authors, so i can get this book back on the shelf?



cate_p said...

that book sounds pretty fun although the pretentiousness/somewhat cheesy-sounding writing you describe would annoy me! sounds like jeanette has her merits though and i must confess to never having read oranges so i wouldn't mind borrowing this off you as a starting point!

cate_p said...

ps forgot to say great review again els i really enjoyed reading it you should be a book reviewer!

els said...

cath you would hate it! but possibly love it too, so you should definitely borrow him from me (and i don't mind lending it because it's not in mint condition).
those who can't do, review?

sal said...

Els is right about two things: Lightehousekeeping is a very great read for the plebs, and cate would hate it. I must say though, els's passing comment that winterson ocassionally managed to be 'existential' made the snob in me (which is quite large and growing by the minute) want to cry, because i really dont think satre would enjoy the thought of winterson and existentialism colliding. That would be a messy collision.

els said...

i'm sorry sal, it was indeed a passing comment. all i really meant was she gets a little angsty re the meaning of life etc. very sorry to make you want to cry, and i will endeavour in the future not to make fly-away comments that will upset the snob in you and reveal my naivety.