The fact is, this book makes me cry.
The fact is, this book is about being trapped by history. Or herstory. Yourstory and mystory. It’s a mystery, mystory.
The fact is, it’s brilliant (and infectious) the way Ali Smith plays with language. Puns, jokes, double entendres.
(The fact is, although I scold myself for the hours I’ve spent watching the racy and historically irresponsible series The Tudors, I wouldn’t have caught the reference to Thomas Tallis had I not watched the show before I read this novel.)
The fact is, the book itself is a history trap. You start where past and present meet, move through the story, and circle back again.
The fact is, the characters in this story are trapped because they can’t let the past stay behind them, nor can they let the past and the present coexist. The past keeps intruding, unbidden, catching them by surprise because they refuse to see it. They can’t move forward because they keep circling back.
The fact is, one man finds a way out by shutting himself in until he’s traveled far enough in his little room that he’s ready to circle back and look his past in the eye.
The fact is, once a person can look the past in the eye and accept that it’s all the same—past, present, future, all beneath our feet in this moment—once a person can do that, she is free.
Or at least that’s what I took away from this book. That and comfort with a few more vocabulary words.
(To clarify the title of this post, my husband picks books for me, checks them out from the library, wraps them, and puts them under the tree. Then he takes the kids on field trips so I have plenty of time to read. This year, he found this book for me. I’d never heard of it, but I loved it. Several years ago he introduced me to Haruki Murakami. Last year it was Joshua Ferris and Marisha Pessl. He doesn’t read much fiction himself, but he’s great at picking it for me.)