The Gravity of Love by Sara Stridsberg and Deborah Bragan-Turner (translator)
Particularly literate cover… Setting of a real-life mental hospital – in Sweden… Mature themes… Opening with an emotion- and closure-laden death… Yes, this book has more than its share of things to put the potential reader off. Which, in this instance, is quite a large shame indeed.
|The Gravity of Love by Sara Stridsberg and Deborah Bragan-Turner (translator)|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Story structure, character and events – all here may have the power to unsettle. But ultimately this is a very pleasurable read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: November 2016|
|Publisher: MacLehose Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Now, as opposed to the usual awareness of plot spoilers, I feel like making sure you have no character spoilers. I certainly found a problem at first with working out who was who. But the book, I will reveal, concerns Jim – an often-suicidal alcoholic, and the four women in his life, one of whom is dead. It's only as you go through the book that you work out who the first-person, female narrator, is, but by the time you're over that hurdle, I think you're definitely hooked. You do have to absorb the structure of the whole piece, as well – working out the difference between the section break made of a blank line and that made by scrolling emblems, working out the jumps in timeline, including the italicised secondary narrator, feeding in the jumps aside to a different male character… Like I say, it's easy to do a disservice to the potential audience of this book and put them off. And, like I say, that would be a pity.
There's no literate tricksiness about the ghostly white bird that keeps turning up here (although at times the description certainly seems all passing birds, passing planes, treetops and sky colour); it and everything else the prose itself provides is a fine reading experience, with rich emotion, and an ease that takes you to the depths of metaphor and surprise. And even with the characters, locale and mood that runs throughout, the whole thing is a surprisingly joyful and sunlit time – we all know those 300-page novels that take the entire day to plough through; but this – with judicious amounts of section breaks and blank space – is a much quicker and as a result more satisfying activity.
Ultimately, of course, it's the characters that have to make you keep reading, not just how quickly the pages fly by, and those, when you do have them correct in your mind, are fine company. The side character very easily becomes a heart-wrenching cameo (as opposed to other characters, who do quite unsavoury things). So even if at times I felt as if I hadn't quite grasped everything available, I still quite cherished this read. Ultimately it has a salient message for us all.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Gravity of Love by Sara Stridsberg and Deborah Bragan-Turner (translator) at Amazon.com.
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