Saturday, 12 November 2016


Yes, I am enthralled, amazed, enchanted, enthralled, entranced, in love. Not in a sexual or even a sensual way but in the way that a lover of words loves another lover of words, one who uses them with such skill to turn a story of ordinary humans into a wonderful experience for a reader. I speak of Geraldine Brooks and in particular her book Year of Wonders, a story set in England around the time of the 17th century Plague. Not only do I like the way she gets into the head of the protagonist and makes the historical facts of interest but it is her descriptions that enthuse me. For example, "The Plague is cruel in the same way. Its blows fall and fall again upon raw sorrow, so that before you have mourned one person that you love, another is ill in your arms." What better way to express the continuing horror of a disease. The her descriptions of the Nature that surrounds the villagers of that period are so fitting, a time before Industrialisation and Nature at its best and worst. "Grey is the sky colour here, the dove-breast clouds louring so upon the hilltops that sometimes you feel you could just reach up and bury your hands in their softness." And her description of how readily a group of 'ignorant' villagers turn on women they believe  to be a witch is an incredibly powerful indicator of how we can all turn into unthinking animals. A lesson to contemplate in today's world of fundamentalism on many sides.
So, yes I an enamoured of this writing and yes, you should read the book but what is so important to me is the lesson that Brooks brings to us lesser writers. In this modern (2001) book I am experiencing the divine pleasure of  what I have always loved about writing and reading, the use of adjectives and adverbs that flourish and expand a story, even if within the confines of skilled containment. I have spent  years of my life being told NOT to use too many descripters. "They pad a story.  They are unnecessary. They are the sign of amateurism." SO many teachers,whether at High School, University, Creative Writing courses, have battered me with such  commands that I eventually inculcated them into my own work. While understanding that every word must count, must move the story on, I have always thought that the use of more than simply sufficient adjectives and adverbs is what makes a story special. The likes of Geraldine Brooks and Hilary Mantel and many other female writers bare me out and it is so good to see that it is not just 19th century writers who 'padded' out their books for our enjoyment. Imagine Austin, the Bronte's and Dickens, without their informative and delightful and often vast, descriptions. It makes me wonder of course how my lesser described characters, situations and places stand up to the scrutiny of readers. Please let me know.

No comments:

Post a Comment