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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

None of the Love of the Lyrics

The Very Thought of YouThe Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There is a sentence toward the end of this book "the grief would not go, but sometimes he cherished it." Oh, there is plenty of grief to go around and each and everyone of the main characters more than cherished it. They allowed it to consume them and turn them into empty, cold husks incapable of interacting normally with anyone outside themselves, even those with whom they are most intimate.

The first of the three protagonists is Anna Sands, an eight year old evacuee from London to the grand Yorkshire mansion, Ashton Park. Her story is perhaps the one most difficult to which to give credence. Not wanting to ruin it for those who may read the book, suffice it to say, that, despite some fairly happy times in childhood, she seems not to show the resilience that most children have to trauma. Granted separation from parents and loss of her mother at an early age are pretty traumatic, there seems to have been no saving grace in her reunion with her father, who seems to get pretty short shrift in the story. To the point that his wife's infidelity in London while he fights in Africa is very superficially dealt with. But then, these characters are all superficial.

The other two characters of consequence are the lovely owners of Ashton Park--Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton. His supposed emotional crippling is the result of loss of his siblings at an early age and is physical crippling the result of a bout of polio which leaves him in a wheelchair, though not impotent. His wife, totally a cold fish from the start, who knows why, is crippled by her lack of a child. Hence the opening of the house to other people's children. These two deserve each other but as luck will have it others get caught up in their circle of misery and are damaged or destroyed by the experience.

Two other characters keep showing up intermittently for no apparent reason but the notes at the end tell us that Clifford Norton and his wife, Peter, are the only real personages in the tale. They are distant cousins of the author and "act as an occasional chorus on the wider world beyond Ashton Park." A world in which Hitler invades Poland, Paris falls,the death camps are liberated and later there is a civil war in Greece. None of these things seem to have any impact on these self-absorbed people on their lovely estate in the countryside.

I finished the book hoping that there would be some salvation or awakening in these people--but no, they continue to cherish the new grief that life has brought them. No one dies in this book--life leaks out of them or seeps out of them in the author's euphemous language--but it does seep slowly from the first page until at the end the biggest sorrow is the empty house. Now a museum, with guided tours through lifeless rooms and hallways, filled with ghosts. But, in my opinion, but for the laughing, running children evacuated there for such a short time, the house was always filled with ghosts. Soul less cold creatures --empty of all human feeling.

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