Drayson, Nicholas. Confessing a Murder. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2002.
Reason read: June is the first month the weather is nice enough to be on the water. My father-in-law just put his boat in on the 2nd of June.
Confessing a Murder starts with a question, “It is sweet to name a thing, for is it not by naming that we gain possession?” (p 2).
In the style of nameless narration this is the story of a scientist, exiled from England. He has been stranded on an active volcanic island for three seasons, studying the flora and fauna of his entrapped environment. He knows time is running out and hints by stating things like, the mountain has “other plans.” He tells the story of how he got there interspersed with detailed descriptions of his discoveries on the island. Just this alone would make a fascinating story, but Drayson takes it a step further by included the fictionalized character of Charles Darwin as the unknown naturalist’s friend and companion, implying, and then later announcing, the theory of evolution was imposed upon Darwin by this friend. This is a story of blind love and deaf, dumb, and blind greed.
As an aside, I couldn’t get over the fantastical wildlife our nameless protagonist discovers. Birds that hibernate under water, vampire plants which suck the blood of birds. and many, many more.
The one quote I loved, “I do not know why we betray the things we love” (p 32). Hang onto this sentence because it will come back tenfold.
Author fact: In addition to Confessing a Murder Drayson wrote A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, which is also on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: Confessing a Murder is Drayson’s first novel.
Nancy said: Nancy said the components that make up Confessing a Murder are the perfect ingredients for a novel to enjoy, “and Drayson does it up beautifully” (p 167).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Oceana, or Miles of Isles” (p 164).
Rice, Luanne and Joseph Monninger. The Letters. New York: Bantam, 2008.
Not on any Challenge list. Not a must read from a friend. Not a gift. Not an Early Review book from LibraryThing. Not even something I would ordinarily pick up on my own. Nope. I read The Letters simply because part of it takes place on Monhegan Island. There I said it. I’m a sucker for my island. Put it in print and you have a loyal reader. Such is the case of The Letters.
It’s a creative concept for a storyline: two parents torn apart by the accidental death of their son. The father (Sam) is obsessed with seeing the place where his son (Paul) perished. Driven by that obsession he makes a pilgrimage into the Alaskan wild where his son’s plane crashed. The mother (Hadley) artistic and alcoholic, find herself in equal solitude on Monhegan Island, a tiny (586 acre) island off the coast of Maine that really does exist. These parents are as far away from each other physically as their marriage is spiritually. Their story consists of letters written on the brink of divorce – volleying blame back and forth. Through these letters, not only does the anguish of losing Paul wring itself out, but histories are revealed. Grief is only a fraction of the bigger picture.
Being a one-time Monheganer I enjoyed Hadley’s letters from the island. I often seek solace on its rocky coastline ten miles out to sea. Her description of Cathedral Woods was dead on. I was disappointed she couldn’t stay 100% true to factual details, though. To my knowledge the island has never been home to squirrels or raccoons and the deer population was annihilated (for lack of a better word) in 1999. I suppose Rice and Monninger to beef up the animal population of the island for added charm. Or something. But, my biggest disappointment came when Hadley fell on the rocks. I don’t think I will be ruining the plot by revealing this, but Monhegan doesn’t have a clinic that someone can just pop into to get ace bandages, ice packs or even aspirin. The island operates on a beautifully orchestrated volunteer system. It’s not as formalized as it used to be thanks to a lack of funding, but when someone is hurt or falls ill on Monhegan there is an urgency felt by everyone. The entire community will band together to bring a fallen tourist, a mid-seizure epileptic, the about-to-give-birth pregnant woman, to safety. I feel Rice and Monninger missed an opportunity to emphasize how similar Sam and Hadley’s rural landscapes really are, despite being at opposite ends of the country. They both fall ill and while their ailments are different the lack of convenient treatment is the same.
Lines that said something: “I hated the drinking because it erased the woman that I loved” (p 35).
“It’s when you start preferring email with a man five miles away to talking to your husband that you know you have a problem” (p 54).
“It shrieks when its not howling” (p56). Talking about Monhegan wind. Amen to that.
I think the fates know I am homesick. Every so often I am surrounded by the reminders of where I really would like to be. Little reminders are dropped just outside my periphery. I catch glimpses of where I miss. A few weeks ago my family meandered around Boston, looking for a decent place to eat. By chance we stumbled on (and into) a cute noodle place with exotic offerings like seafood pad thai and mango curry. It wasn’t a first choice but we chose it. The tablecloths were nice. Fresh flowers on every table. Calming colored walls. Pleasant atmosphere. Within a few minutes someone noticed the paintings. Look! There’s home. The bell, the boat, the lighthouse. Same old in an unexpected new place. And there’s another. Same scene from a different angle. The wedding site. Art on the walls but more to me.
Yesterday I got an email from a professor in New Jersey. He wanted to know my opinion on a legal database I’ve only used once. His signature on the email was a link to a tiny art gallery in a town I used to frequent (way back in the day). Curious, I clicked on the link and was confronted by the colors of home. Red House. Pink Carina. Gray fishhouse. Yellow cochrane. The artist was asking $1,000 for each painting. It was if Jersey had never seen the coast of Maine.
Last night someone from New Hampshire invited me to an artist’s reception. He thought I would like the poppy paintings. Reminiscent of Georgia big flowers. That sort of thing. While trying to figure out the schedule (could I fit it in?) I noticed the gallery featured another artist I know and like and well, almost dated back in the early 80’s. Woops. Small world not really.
So, all of these reminders are here for a reason. Telling me to go home. Urging me to sit by the sea. Soon enough.