I’ve always loved “fall back Sunday,” the day we set our clocks back one hour to mark the end of Daylight Savings Time. In effect, we get an extra hour in the day, and for someone as perpetually time starved as I, it’s a real gift. My 25 hour Sunday always seems luxuriously long, and that extra one hour sometime gives me the most expansive feeling – as if I’ve all the time in the world.
Alas, even 25 hour Sundays come to a close, and it’s nearly that time already. I had high hopes for the day and the things I wanted to do in it. Some of them were fulfilled, other not…apparently even 25 hours in a day is not enough. Now it’s quite dark, and I’m sitting at my desk with a glass of wine and a small crystal bowl of Goldfish crackers, thinking about the book I’ve been reading.
Consequences, it’s called, and it’s by Penelope Lively, an author whose restrained yet very perceptive writing has come to be one of my favorites. The novel starts out with a young couple who meet by chance in a park outside of London, circa 1935. They fall deeply in love, and despite their very different backgrounds (she’s society, he isn’t) marry and begin a life together.
It’s that life, and all its consequences, which make up the narrative of the book. The story speeds along, through the War years, into the fifties and sixties, and barrels right on into the eighties. It seems to pick up speed as it goes, much as life does when you’re living it, so that what started out as a rather elongated and elegiac tale of Lorna and Matt in their primitive cottage, races through their daughter Molly’s adulthood, and blasts into the modern world with their granddaughter Ruth and her family.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m quite in love with this book. It’s about the very subject that fascinates me most – legacy – the connection between generations. It’s a subject I’ve been preoccupied with so much these past few months, coming to grips with the loss of two important members of my family and reflecting on their legacy. How do we get from one generation to the next? What propels us through time, which actions and consequences become part of the maze of life that leads from one generation to another?
Years after, she would think that you do not so much make decisions, as stumble in a certain direction because something tells you that that is the way you must go. You are impelled, bu some confusion of instinct, will, and blind faith. Reason does not much come into it. If reason ruled, you would not try, for fear of failure; you would not love, in case it hurt.
Years later, that time has lost all chronology; it is a handful of scenes that replay from time to time.
You might think a novel of this depth and scope would be a huge tome – but it’s a mark of Lively’s skill that she tells this tale in less than 300 pages. She is a masterful writer, with economy of word and phrase, yet still terribly evocative of emotion and place.
Lovely book, for a lovely, long day.
Now tell me, if you had an “extra” hour today, how did you spend it?