Last Saturday, I called in at the library when I was in town and, as so often happens, came out without a book. I take my little notebook (see above) containing lists of authors I’m on the lookout for, but fail to find any of their books. I can only get books by ordering them specially or by a great piece of luck. For some perverse reason, I usually trust to luck. Perhaps I get more pleasure from a serendipitous discovery. Now I’ve found a new way to borrow books, via The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Since Amazon emails me every day with offers of items I don’t want to buy, such as plasma TVs, I don’t understand why I wasn’t alerted to this service. Here’s how it works. You return the book via Manage My Kindle. Just go to Your Kindle Library, find the borrowed book, click on ‘actions’ and ‘return this book’ is one of the options. Then you can borrow another. So what was the first book loan I tried?
This book is only available for the Kindle and costs a mere 77p, so I wasn’t saving much money.
”How the creatures order one about, …!" thought Alice. Welcome to Violet in Wonderland. Violet lives in Oxford, a peculiarly timeless Oxford which you can’t get a handle on until hippies are mentioned; otherwise the surreal little story could be set at almost any date. Alice permeates the entire book. (Direct quotes from Lewis Carroll are mine, not the author’s.) Violet begins the story very small indeed but is soon a very tall girl. Is she really, or only in the Alice way? Hard to tell. In her eccentric family circle grandmother reminds her of a long, green crocodile (How doth the little crocodile, of course), while her grandfather Julius consults a large pocket watch and worries about being late. There are white rabbits, a game of chess, a game of croquet, a talking dodo (stuffed), a duchess, a cook, a pig and a pepperpot, a garden Violet longs to get into. Her sister Fuchsia’s wedding breakfast is just like the Mad Hatter’s tea party, complete with a mouse-like man who keeps falling asleep. Grandfather Julius once wrote a best selling book called Persephone Rising which is a version of Jabberwocky, with its own glossary at the end of the book. Now he spends his time writing haiku on small pieces of paper which he then throws away.
If the book has a story, it’s that of Julius’s decline into dementia and Violet’s growing up as she comes to terms with it and with his death. The trouble is that there is little to choose between Julius in his right mind and Julius demented. Everyone in the book, including Violet, is completely bonkers, it seems to me.
“But I don't want to go among mad people.” “Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.” “How do you know I'm mad?” “You must be. Or you wouldn't have come here.”
I’d say this was a short, quirky and very original little book but I can’t forgive sentences like these:
“Everyone else at the table was too dissolved in their own stew to notice Amanda’s eating rituals.”
“Perhaps the thought of cold soup and stale bread for breakfast would have incentivised Violet to eat her dinner,”
“Unperturbed by the prospect of people, he had conceded to follow Violet out onto the front step.”
There's far too much of this sort of thing, very surprising from such a highly educated writer. You can find more favourable comments here on the author’s home page.