D is downloading photos in the next room and having her usual struggles with her computer. I play the reluctant consultant. Last night we went with our neighbours - C & J - to the Somerville. A French film - Skylab, about family holidays in Brittany. We came away with vastly differing views on the female leads. D and J thought the Julie Delpy character was great - a normal, in-your-face French woman - while C and I thought she was a case. And the same for her grown daughter, although the 11 year-old version was delightful. K also came but we didn't get the chance to canvas her opinions. A fun way to get to know the neighbours - and a typical picnic feast, aided by a bottle of Port Phillip rose, courtesy of K.
Warming up after wind and rain earlier in the month. We said our final goodbyes to dear old Mum. About 50 at the funeral and afterwards at Rob and Jo's. A good send-off. Someone asked me how it felt to be an orphan. Not much different to not being one, I replied. Yet there is that sense of loss, with both parents now gone. No doubt we will reflect on this when the family get together on Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile, the second novel splutters along. My young hero is back in Australia, bursting to to return to India but unexpectedly delayed. I'm not sure how things will end. My mentor told me that the novelist, Richard Ford (Canada, The Sportswriter etc) plants a flag (mentally) somewhere in the far distance and his task is to take his story towards that flag. I don't seem to work that way. At least not yet.
Speaking of novels, recently read Drusilla' Modjeska's The Mountain. Complex but interesting especially for lovers of Papua New Guinea. I read it on Kindle and got a bit lost with which character was which, and whose voice was speaking. But it is worth hanging in. The interactions, assumptions and cultural issues between the indigenous people and the Europeans is handled adroitly, and there is a real smell of PNG permeating the pages.
Also skimmed through a biography of the nurse, Edith Cavell, executed by the Germans in WW1. Not often have women written war-based books, and Diana Souhami gives a matter-of-fact statistical backdrop to the evolving drama of Cavell's involvement in the Belgian resistance, and ultimate fate. Understated and powerful.
Chris Cleave writes of more contemporary events. Daniele saw him at the Brisbane Writer's Festival and was impressed. He spoke of the redemptive element in his novels - an approach that I applaud. Too much fiction is tough going, unending heaviness and deflating endings. Cleave's Gold - a tale of two competing female cyclists - is dramatic and captures the conflicted emotions extremely well. Central to the story is Sophie, the young daughter, who is being treated for leukemia. This book could have disappeared up itself in pathos but refuses to do so. I am now moved to read Cleave's earlier novels.