Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Settling a pillow by her head

I am afraid that I have been absent from Blogland for a few days because the Head Chef gave me a present. More presents, I hear you say, how exciting! But I am afraid not: this was an unwanted present. The Head Chef gave me a head cold and I spent most of the weekend dwelling miserably upon my indisposition.

After doing a marathon bout of ironing, an absolute Everest of bedlinen, I decided that there was nothing for it but to retire, defeated, from the fray. I had hoped that my little malady would be of the sort that allows one to slide on to the sofa, comforted by a little restorative knitting.

But unfortunately not. The sofa was too noisy, too liminal; I needed to get away from  the hurly burly of kitchen central. There was no alternative but to retire to bed with Dusty Answer.

Before those of you with finely honed morals turn away in disgust, I will quickly point out that Dusty Answer is not a superannuated country and western singer. No, Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann is a most wonderful novel, and just the thing to take to bed, and not get up until you have read it from cover to cover.

If you didn't first read it at the feverish age of seventeen, then it might have passed you by, but I would encourage you to acquire a copy in readiness for your next cold in the head, real or imagined.

Dusty Answer is a coming of age novel in which Lehmann captures the agony and ecstasy of growing up, of unrequited love, of first love, of setting out to find your place in the world - and this is what I adored about it in my angst-ridden teenage years. I identified so closely with Judith, the heroine, that I could not quite believe that someone writing in 1927 had had the prescience to anticipate the confusions and complexities of my life - the sheer intensity of emotion that I felt and the pain of growing up.

And I do believe that I had not read this novel for at least twenty-five years, but there it was, still, sitting on my bookshelf. So I picked it up and took it and a hottie and snuggled under a heap of quilts, quite ready to be disappointed, to find it facile and faintly amusing. But I was absorbed totally, and with the wisdom of years enjoyed it in quite a different way. For a start the agony of first love is not quite so immediate, and I can look back at my poor youthful self, and think that the past is another country ...

I was also struck by the constant echoes throughout the text of TS Eliot's poems,'The Wasteland' and 'Prufrock', which in my ignorance I had not picked up before. (And if you have never read 'The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock', then do seek it out here: it is one of the most wonderful poems ever written.) And also, in common with so much writing of the 1920s, the First World War haunts the novel, a gaping wound just below the surface of the text, casting a long, long shadow over the characters.

And in this little invalid interlude I discovered that I am now ready to read fiction once more. After so many years researching the subject of my thesis, it seemed to me that I had read every single nineteenth-century novel ever written, and a good few either end of the century as well, and I have to say that, having spent every spare moment since the age of four voraciously devouring fiction, I suddenly found myself in my forties, in possession of a PhD in English Literature, yet feeling completely read out and unable to pick up another novel.

And so for the past couple of years I have mainly read craft and permaculture books, all the while feeling slightly bereft, and floundering without my fictional fix - yearning to become totally lost and absorbed in the world of the imagination, but not quite able to take that leap. But Dusty Answer has proved to be the answer for me, and in Judith's impassioned declaration (yes, I wrote this one down in purple ink, too), and I am so happy to be able to say, dear, dear world of the novel and of fiction, I do love you, indeed, in every sort of way, and to any degree you can possibly imagine ... I just needed a bit of a break, and perhaps to move a little way beyond the narrow confines of nineteenth-century realism.

There is so much more to tell you, and yet it is all the same really ... you can see from the pictures that I also managed a teeny tiny bit of knitting, of which more anon.

And my apologies to those that I have neglected over the past few days of coughing and spluttering; Google Reader is accusingly telling me that my unread posts are legion ... so do not ask, what is it? I must go and make my visit!


A Bun Can Dance said...

Hello Pomona!
I'm so pleased to hear that you have recovered from your bug. I don't know this book at all and I must seek it out and read it now - you have inspired me to do so! I totally understand your inability to read fiction in recent years. I have been through a similar period of inability to focus on a novel, and have only read non-fiction such as craft books, sustainability, gardening books,etc. It seemed every time I tried to read a novel I just couldn't get engrossed.... Until I read "The French Lieutenant's Woman" last week, and I loved being lost in a novel. I've finished it now, sadly, and I do miss it very much. I find myself mooching around the bookshelves here hoping to find another novel to lose myself in. So maybe the Lehmann novel is the way forward for me!
Happy days to you
Denise x

Sew Scrumptious said...

I don't think I've read a novel since my daughter was born 4 years ago. Just too tired!! However I've just set up a reading group and we are meeting for the first time on Friday! We've all just read 'We need to talk about Kevin' by Lionel Shriver. Lots to talk about and I'm sure lots of wine will be involved too! Will have to suggest your book as one of our reads.

Michela said...

I'm sorry to hear that you was not ok, I was wondering just this morning.."hey, but where is Pomona?"
Take care!

JuliaB said...

Hi Pomona! I got a present last weekend too ... perhaps you caught your headcold from me! Damn thing has only JUST began to make an exit :( I hope you are feeling much better now ... Are those your pigs???? xx

Chrissie said...

I thought 'Dusty Answer' might be what you got from Head Chef when you asked him to bring you a cup of tea ... Hope you feel really well soon - glad the time in sick-bay turned out to have some positive consequences!

Lola Nova said...

Deepest sympathies, I also received that present from 'the bearded one'. Ooh it was a nasty one, with a lingering afterglow. Wish I'd had your book, I will seek it out in the used (formerly loved) section.

The fog has lifted over here, though a slight haze remains, and I'm trying to catch up. I am looking about now, trying to catch a glimpse of my as yet undiscovered potential.

Keep taking good care of yourself (as I just found out - the laundry will wait for you, it's not going anywhere)


...Miss...Maddie's... said...

Not feeling one's best is the perfect reason to cocoon yourself in a cozy bed surrounded by fluffy quilts and a good book.
Something about its appeal rescues you from the miserableness of your health and allows you to escape to another time and into the world of someone else...
Glad to read you're feeling better and you must share the rest of those knitting projects too!

Hen said...

Sorry to hear you've been under the weather, everyone except me has had the lurgy here, so far. Good that something positive came of it though, in the form of your re-discovery of the "dusty fiction"! I'm afraid I only read nonsense these days and then very seldom. In fact, your blog is the only decent writing I read! Pleeease show us the knitting, it looks yummy...
Hen xxx

Catherine said...

I hope you are feeling much, much better! I am about to trot off to the used section of Amazon to find the book which looks like it NEEDS to be read! LOL!

beck said...

What a great title for a book, I love it. Sorry to hear you have been sick, it's such a drag isn't it? Glad you took some time to rest xo

Frances said...

What a beautiful post you have written. Though I had not even heard of that Dusty book, your words have encouraged me to look for it at my library.

Glad that you are getting over your illness. Best wishes.

Pipany said...

Oh the idea of bed is always bliss, but the reality here is so far removed from my vision of perfectness with children tumbling in and out or yelling through the door. Much nicer to read of your period of 'retirement' Pomona. Glad you are feeling better. I know exactly what you mean about losing literature as I am still struggling to get back there myself since my lit degree. Miss it so, but need to go back to old favourites I think to re-engage like did. First Worls War novels always rather call to me x

Florence and Mary said...

Glad to hear you're feeling a little better.

Isn't it dreadful how a day or two away from blogging and suddenly google reader is backed up!!!

Victoria xx

Floss said...

Oh, like the others, I've been wondering what you were up to! Thanks for checking in, but rotten luck about the head cold! The book looks great - I found 'I Capture the Castle' for the first time this year, and was similarly delighted with the insight of a 17-year old. My reading tends to be rather excapist at the moment, with 'murder-lite' (i.e. more character, less nastiness) my favourite brand!

I did hope you'd have a chance to see my Sunday post ('Anticipation'), so if you have time and inclination, do pop back and have a look at that one - I would love to know your thoughts!

Menopausal musing said...

So a head cold can have good side effects! And here's a "knock on" one: I clicked on the "Love Song" link, and was totally absorbed in it. Some exqisite lines in there. Thank you.

Elizabethd said...

Isnt it lovely to rediscover writings from another age? Like Floss, I loved Dodie Smith. I havent read the Lehmann, but now and then pop back to other writers of that era.
Do hope you are better now.

Serenata said...

I have always had a love of literature as well, but have found in recent years just reading well, not really sure how to describe it. I am often disappointed and give up before finishing so must look out this book at some stage.

Glad to hear you are on the mend and look forward to more of your wonderful posts.

Tabiboo said...

I'm so glad your feeling better and can whole heartedly sympathise with the head cold. Sometimes I wish these blokes would keep there nasty germs to themselves! Slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails 'yuk!'

Have a wonderful day,

Nina x

Kelly said...

Sorry to hear you were unwell hope you are fighting fit now!
I just found you and love your blog ;)
I will be back for more!

Lots of Love

Kelly xxx

Anonymous said...

Oh dear sorry you had one of them horrible head colds that someone kindly donated to you, a good read in bed is just right. I do just the same but I have not seen the book you mentioned though, it sounds like a good one. Take care, Julie.C

jennyflower said...

Sorry you have been poorly- boo!! Glad, though, that you have had chance to imerse yourself in some great literature- I like a spot of Agatha Christie when feeling run down- books should be available on prescription! (can't wait to see more of the knitting)

marigold jam said...

Hope you are feeling a bit better for your rest? Sometimes going to bed is the only thing to do isn't it? Get well soon.


Suzy's Vintage Attic said...

Hello Pomona

I do hope that you are feeling better. Not nice for you!
I love reading and am always interested in book reviews especially from bloggers.
Dusty Answer does sound like a book that would appeal to me. Will see if I can find a copy to add to my ever growing collection of books! You can never have too many...
Take care
Isabelle x

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

The colours - and part views - of your knitting look so tantalising! Hope you're feeling much, much better.

A book that gave me immense enjoyment decades ago, was John Buchan's 'The Thirty Nine Steps' now, after reading your post, I may just be tempted to read it again. BFN. Lesley

silverpebble said...

So sorry you were feeling so poorly Pomona but I spy a new post. I hope this means good news. I have never read this novel but will watch out for it and get a copy if I can. It sounds like an excellent spot of escapism. I love your dear little bottle hats. I think they may also fit a certain monkey very dear to my eldest's heart.


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