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!