Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Pattern in the Carpet – Margaret Drabble

I read a review of this book somewhere (probably The Australian Review) and thought it sounded interesting and then I found a copy on sale at Borders – it was meant to be.

The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws is an original and brilliant work. Margaret Drabble weaves her own story into a history of games, in particular jigsaws, which have offered her and many others relief from melancholy and depression. Alongside curious facts and discoveries about jigsaw puzzles — did you know that the 1929 stock market crash was followed by a boom in puzzle sales? — Drabble introduces us to her beloved Auntie Phyl, and describes childhood visits to the house in Long Bennington on the Great North Road, their first trip to London together, the books they read, the jigsaws they completed. She offers penetrating sketches of her parents, her siblings, and her children; she shares her thoughts on the importance of childhood play, on art and writing, on aging and memory. And she does so with her customary intelligence, energy, and wit. This is a memoir like no other.

This was a lovely book to read – part memoir part jigsaw history. There were anecdotes  from her friends and acquaintances about their ‘jigsaw puzzling’. Drabble uses a chatty style – it is like you’re sitting at her table doing a puzzle together.

And yes, I did feel motivated to do a  jigsaw puzzle. I like the idea that it is always possible to complete the puzzle you just need time and a bit of discipline.

I liked this book so much I’ve moved on to The Witch of Exmoor.

Here are some more reviews … 

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Filed under Non-Fiction, Recommended

Notes from an Exhibition – Patrick Gale

A friend recommended this book to me at least a year ago. I picked it up a couple of times in various different book stores, but wasn’t that interested. Then I saw it in my local $5 book store and picked up a copy. In the way these things go, I really enjoyed it and I am sure I shall read more of his work.

Here is the blurb …

The new novel from the bestselling Patrick Gale tells the story of artist Rachel Kelly, whose life has been a sacrifice to both her extraordinary art and her debilitating manic depression. When troubled artist Rachel Kelly dies painting obsessively in her attic studio in Penzance, her saintly husband and adult children have more than the usual mess to clear up. She leaves behind an extraordinary and acclaimed body of work — but she also leaves a legacy of secrets and emotional damage it will take months to unravel. A wondrous, monstrous creature, she exerts a power that outlives her. To her children she is both curse and blessing, though they all in one way or another reap her whirlwind, inheriting her waywardness, her power of loving — and her demons! Only their father’s Quaker gifts of stillness and resilience give them any chance of withstanding her destructive influence and the suspicion that they came a poor second to the creation of her art. The reader becomes a detective, piecing together the clues of a life — as artist, lover, mother, wife and patient — which takes them from contemporary Penzance to 1960s Toronto to St Ives in the 1970s. What emerges is a story of enduring love, and of a family which weathers tragedy, mental illness and the intolerable strain of living with genius. Patrick Gale’s latest novel shines with intelligence, humour and tenderness.

I really enjoyed the slow (and sometime misleading) unfolding of Rachel’s story. The writing was beautiful. The characters were all sympathetically portrayed – even Rachel who was really a bit of a monster. This novel examines the fine line between creativity and madness and also what happens to families  when the creative genius is a mother? She is absent when she is creating and when she is not creating she is fighting her inner demons.

Here are some other reviews …

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Filed under Recommended, Serious