Friday, 29 March 2013

Review: Lighthousekeeping

Jeanette Winterson

'My mother called me Silver. I was born part precious metal part pirate.'

It's kind of difficult to sum up this novel in a few sentences so I'm going to be lazy and just stick the blurb in here. It does a much better job than I could.

'Motherless and anchorless, Silver is taken in by the timeless Mr Pew, keeper of the Cape Wrath lighthouse. Pew tells Silver ancient tales of longing and rootlessness, of ties that bind and of the slippages that occur throughout every life. One life, Babel Dark's, a nineteenth-century clergyman, opens like a map that Silver must follow. Caught in her own particular darknesses, she embarks on a Ulyssean sift through the stories we tell ourselves, stories of love and loss, of passion and longing, stories of unending journeys that move through places and times, and the bleak finality on the shores of betrayal.'

Basically this is a story about telling stories. With a girl called Silver and a guy called Pew at the centre of it all. I actually just gave myself brain ache when I realised that Silver is telling the story of being told these stories, so she is actually telling the stories when we think Pew is telling them and wow I'm going to stop thinking before my brain EXPLODES. Phew. That was a close one.

As usual this is a beautifully written novel, I wouldn't expect anything less from Winterson. She does however, tend to wander off into what I call 'pretentious territory' when she tries to make herself sound uber intelligent and philosophical. Stick with it, JW, no need to go all mind-blowy on me. There is a long section (probably about 3/4's of the way through) which I think is entirely unnecessary. I'm not even sure there is much of a plot either but what little there is seems to work very well in conjunction with the general exploration of storytelling going on.

I love the literary links Winterson makes. Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Darwin casually stroll through the narrative. There is a quick wave to Captain Scott and Forster's 'only connect' is very slyly thrown in. Jekyll and Hyde also plays quite a significant part as it is one of those points of reference which makes a comment about the characters. Babel Dark and Silver (I think) are Jekyll/Hyde characters. But without that reference I don't think I would even have picked up on the whole double thing going on.

Overall, I think the novel is a wonderfully written foray into the whys and wherefores of storytelling. I would tell you just to read it but instead I'm going to leave you with some of my favourite quotes which I'm guessing/hoping may demonstrate why I'm recommending it.

'Because there's no story that's the start of itself, anymore than a child comes into the world without parents.'

'There's no such thing in all the world.
As a happy ending?
As an ending.'

'The lighthouse is a known point in the darkness.'

'And I did, and the stories I want to tell you will light up part of my life, and leave the rest in darkness. You don't need to know everything. There is no everything. The stories themselves make the meaning.
           The continuous narrative of existence is a lie. There is no continuous narrative, there are lit-up moments and the rest is dark.'

'I went outside, tripping over slabs of sunshine the size of towns. The sun was like a crowd of people, it was a party, it was music. The sun was blaring through the walls of the houses and beating down the steps. The sun was drumming time into the stone. The sun was rhythming the day.
          'Why are you afraid?' I asked myself, because fear is at the bottom of everything, even love usually rests on fear. 'Why are you afraid, when whatever you do you will die anyway?'


No comments

Post a Comment

© Lit Nerd. All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates by pipdig