Midnight’s Children (1981) by Salman Rushdie

midnightschildren1

Knees and nose, nose and knees.

Apparently I first attempted to read this book at the height of my BBC Big Read glory days, sometime c. 2006. I really have no memory of it but know it must have happened because ten pages in I found the address of a house I shared with some friends that year scribbled on a post it note, along with the monthly rent, number of bedrooms and phone number of the letting agent. Clearly I didn’t finish the book then, although I can’t remember why I gave up on it, but having had it languishing on my shelf ever since, judging me, it seemed about time to pick it up again and have another go.

Midnight’s Children is actually a monumentally difficult book to write about and, at times, not an easy one to read either. Rushdie weaves together layers of fact, myth, rumour and prophecy so that you often can’t really tell what you’re reading. It’s beautifully done but it does make writing a succinct plot description quite tricky, partly because, if I’m brutally honest, I’m still not quite sure what exactly happens in this book. I can tell you that Saleem Sinai, our narrator, is the original midnight’s child, born on the stroke of the hour at the very moment India leaves its colonial past behind and emerges as a newly independent state. Saleem’s life story is knitted together with that of India so it becomes part family saga, part historical epic and part magical fantasy. Rushdie presents the reader with real events like presidential coups, the war with Pakistan and Bangladesh’s violent struggle for independence but he also throws in a snake-man, children born with remarkable powers, a spinster aunt who infuses dishes with her own bitterness and a small boy with the most powerful nose in all of history.

As a narrator Saleem is absolutely infuriating at times. He drops massive hints, strays off topic, abandons stories unfinished and occasionally just invents stuff. He admits to a certain amount of fabrication, acknowledging that sometimes his dates don’t add up and that, to outsiders, some of his bigger claims must sound of preposterous. It’s his faults that make him such a compelling narrator and his sense of his own centrality to the history of a nation, his belief that his actions dictate the future of India, make his story a consuming one even if you can’t ever work out how much of it has been invented, misremembered or embellished. Through him you get a strange sense of how overwhelming the past can be.

I confess to finding Midnight’s Children heavy going at times. While it’s sparklingly, beautifully written – I mean seriously, I’m in awe – it’s the kind of book that will tie you in knots if you’re not careful. I found that my own poor knowledge of Indian history let me down on many occasions and I had frequent cause to look up things I didn’t understand (some of my recent google searches: ‘Dacca’, ‘Sanjay Ghandi, ‘shikara’ ). I don’t mind doing that – I tend to do it with lots of books because I don’t like not knowing – but I seemed to be doing it more often than usual here. However, even if I’d had some expertise I think I’d have still found plenty to confuse me. Thankfully I managed to just about hold it all together so that I was never so baffled that I lost myself completely or was tempted to give up. As long as I paid vigorous attention, and had Dr Google to hand, I was never confused beyond endurance. Now that it’s over and my poor brain can relax a little I’m convinced that Midnight’s Children was worth the effort. I didn’t always enjoy it at the time but I can now only wonder at Rushdie’s attention to detail, his skill at layering story upon story and his ability to bring characters, countries and a whole nation’s history to life. It’s quite a feat really.

I had planned to read Dr Zhivago next but I’ve somehow managed to lose the copy I bought at the start of the year. How annoying… Now that I think about it, it’s probably for the best because I think I deserve, and would appreciate, something slightly easier for my next read.

Top Ten Tuesday: Oldies and Newbies

OLDNew

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme asks participants to look at some of the unread books that have been on their shelf for the longest. I’ve decided to give you the five oldest books as well as the five newest unread books. 

Here are the oldest:

1. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell. A throwback to the old BBC Big Read days.

2. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Oh my stars. I’ve started this and given up again more times than I can remember. It’s embarrassing.

3. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. One day, Bulgakov, one day.

4. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Officially the oldest unread book on my shelf. It’s been there years and years and years.

5. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Another BBC oldie but one that I hope to get round to fairly soon.

And the newest:

6. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimimanda Ngozie Adichie. Purchased entirely based on the recommendations of the blogging community!

7. Byron: Life and Legend by Fiona MacCarthy. A lovely birthday present but one that will probably have to wait until a holiday when I can laze around reading for days at a time.

8. Shylock is my Name by Howard Jacobson. Another birthday present but one that I’m looking forward to jumping into quite soon.

9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Purchased for a whopping 19p from the British Heart Foundation shop in town.

10. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. Another birthday present but not for me (sadly). I bought it for a friend last week and am having to resist the urge to read it before I hand it over!

A very quick and easy TTT this week!

Perfume (1985) by Patrick Suskind

Perfume

I chipped away at this novel in small bites for almost two weeks, which isn’t a very satisfying way of reading anything. It’s not even a particularly long book – just 263 pages in my edition – but various lifey things once again got in the way and stole my reading time away from under me. As a result I don’t really feel like I ever got to sink my teeth into this one fully and I suspect that I’ve unwittingly allowed this to cloud my feelings about the book.

“In eighteenth century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages…” 

The book opens in 1738 with the birth of Jean Baptiste Grenouille into grimy Parisian poverty. Grenouille is gifted with an infallible sense of smell, a sense so astute it can break an odour down into its component parts, follow it for miles to its source and even bottle it up in his memory for later enjoyment. As a young man he wheedles himself an apprenticeship to a struggling perfumer from whom he learns to preserve and mix natural essences for sale to the wealthy aristocracy. However, Grenouille has a higher purpose in mind and his growing passion for capturing more everyday aromas, and the scent of beautiful young virgins in particular, leads him on a path to creating the ultimate perfume. The book is subtitled “The Story of a Murderer” so I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that Grenouille’s obsession takes some grim turns.

On the face of it Perfume is a wordy book: there’s almost no dialogue but there are some pretty lengthy descriptions of smells and perfume making processes to get through. In someone else’s hands that could get pretty boring pretty fast but Suskind’s direct, dry humour make this a surprisingly easy and compelling read. I love the fact that Grenouille understands his world not using sights and sounds but through the smells he encounters around him and that this this is really cleverly reflected in Suskind’s descriptions. The Paris of Perfume has a stench that wafts up through the pages and reminds you how haunting smells can be (or even just descriptions of smells). It gives the book a very visceral feel which goes hand in hand with the macabre, occasionally gruesome plot to make a really vividly imagined story.

Given how much I love the language of this novel it’s hard to explain why I still feel a bit undecided about it. The fact that I was reading piecemeal didn’t help at all of course but in part I think I was sometimes uncomfortable with Suskind’s portrayal of Grenouille. On the one hand I like the image of Grenouille as an enigmatic parasite, a tick waiting for an opportunity to attach itself to an unsuspecting host. It’s a menacing image and I think it makes Grenouille a really sinister, creepy sort of villain. On the other, I think I found him so repellent and depraved that I could never really appreciate his unique sort of genius without being slightly horrified. Maybe he was simply too dastardly to be believable. When I combined the simplicity of the character with the slightly ridiculous climax of the novel I ended up feeling a little let down. A bit like the language and imagery and cleverness of the first two thirds of the book hadn’t really delivered in the end.

This book has lots of ardent fans, one of whom is a colleague who was genuinely horrified when I told her I had mixed feelings. I’m clearly in a small minority of readers here so I’m beginning to wonder whether I’d have enjoyed it more if I’d been able to throw myself into it more wholeheartedly from the beginning. I often find that my enjoyment of a book suffers if I’m struggling to squeeze in time to read. So maybe this is a really unfair review. Or maybe I should stick to my guns and be honest about the fact that I was disappointed. I don’t know.

I’m sticking with a murdery theme and going for what I hope will be a short, satisfying read next: some more Dorothy L. Sayers.

Emma (1815) by Jane Austen

Emma

“If I loved you less I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it…” 

At last the germs have gone and I’m feeling slightly more like a proper human being again. Apologies for the long blog silence over the past week.

I’d been intending to read Lady Audley’s Secret for ages but as soon as I started to feel less sick I found myself gravitating towards Emma instead. I’m not sure why it was so appealing just then but I think there’s definitely something quite comforting about reading Jane Austen when you’re tucked up in bed feeling sorry for yourself.  It gives you plenty of time in which to wonder at how daintily her heroines do sickness. I bet Miss Bennett’s cold wasn’t of the disgusting, grotty sort that time she was holed up at Netherfield after catching a chill in the rain. And I also bet Mr Bingley wouldn’t have been quite so amazed at her loveliness if he’d seen her snuffling, red-nosed and bleary-eyed, high on Lemsip and surrounded by soggy, used tissues…. Nice.

After reading in dribs and drabs over the week I had a late surge on Saturday afternoon and managed to finish Emma shortly before tea. Three days later I’m still trying to decide what to think of it. I’m quite sure I liked it, but I couldn’t tell you why or even what the point of it all was. It’s a strange book really; more intricately plotted than the other Jane Austen books I’ve read but it feels like so little actually happens to the protagonist. She does some matchmaking, a little gossiping, and a lot of thinking up love affairs for other people (but not herself). There are a couple of dances, a picnic, some home visits and a walk or two but not a great deal more in the way of ‘action’. The whole point, I think, is that while all these little things are happening we have the chance to observe all the characters through Emma’s eyes. It’s nice but it leaves you feeling curiously detached. It’s such a relief when something does happen to Emma that you just wish it could have happened sooner.

I suppose what I’d really have liked is more Mr. Knightley. And more dancing.

In all that activity it’s the characters that make the book shine. I loved poor Miss Bates, was jealous of Jane Fairfax, detested that awful Mrs. Elton. Austen is so good at bringing you on side with her characters. They’re wonderful. I even grew to like Emma eventually, which is saying much. For the first half of the book I thought she was too spoilt, too silly, too much of a snob to be really likeable. It doesn’t help that she constantly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities and allows her imagination to lead her wildly astray…. but it’s kindly meant. Eventually she realises how hurtful and humiliating her meddling can be.

I’ve had a few days off since Saturday but I started The Sot Weed Factor yesterday, poor Lady Audley having once again been cast aside in favour of another book. It’s a longish one, and pretty heavy going, but I’ll do my best not to neglect the blog so much this week.

In appreciation of the BBC Big Read Top 100

BigRead

I’m trundling through Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow at a very slow pace. It’s not the fault of the book (although my feelings about it are pretty mixed so far). It’s just that it’s full of references to so many things I don’t understand and I keep pausing to look them up on Wikipedia: cryolite, the Inuit, parasitic worms, the social and economic history of Greenland…. and so on. It’s taking a while.

I’m nearly finished but since I don’t have a review to publish just yet I thought instead I’d post a few thoughts on the BBC Big Read, since my friend B and I were discussing it in the pub last Saturday night. B and I have been friends for years but back in April 2003, when the Beeb announced the results of their poll into the nation’s favourite novels, we were at universities on other sides of the country. We didn’t see each other often but we got great enjoyment from working our way through as many of the top 100 books on the list as we could and comparing notes whenever we saw each other.

Back then, when the list was published, I’d already read 32 of the books in the top 100. Last time I counted I’d read 73. B, of course, finished her 100th book ages ago.

Last weekend, over a bottle of wine, we got to reminiscing. We compared notes on our favourite novels from the list, those which were better/worse than we expected, those we would cross from the list altogether… It got a bit silly, this conversation, because we fundamentally disagree on several of the entries, but here are my answers to some of our questions:

RebeccaThe first new book I crossed from the list: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, borrowed from my university library shortly after the results of the poll were released. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, it was a perfect book to start with: full of suspense and just the sort of thing to spur you on.

CaptainCorelliMost surprising: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres (completed in 2004). I blame my dread of this book entirely on Nicholas Cage… but you know what? It’s actually a great book and doesn’t deserve the crappy film it spawned. I feel a bit resentful on de Bernieres behalf.

AlchemistMost disappointing: The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (completed in 2004). I’d looked forward to reading this and my initial impressions were good… but wore off quickly. I read it twice to make sure I didn’t like it and concluded that I’m turned off by books that are supposed to be profound.

MagusMost infuriating: The Magus by John Fowles (attempted in 2007). I got nearly two thirds of the way through before the rage kicked in. I don’t like to give up on books but I was really struggling with this and never really felt like I understood what was going on. It made me feel like I must just be very stupid.

SuitableBoyMost daunting: Ulysses, which I’ve still not read. Also Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (completed 2005). This was a whopper, by far the longest on the list. I took it on holiday so I could read without distractions (ha!) and fell in love with it. Of all the books that I was introduced to by the Big Read it’s the one I remember most fondly.

The last books I crossed from the list: I’ve crossed two new books off the list this year. They are Persuasion by Jane Austen and Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. Both were worth waiting for.

Books I’m still looking forward to reading: War & Peace, Perfume, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists…. there are quite a few. I’ve not yet tackled any of the Terry Pratchett books on the list and I intend to read at least one of them (I’m not going to commit myself to reading all five – what if I hate them all?).

I’m not sure that I’ll finish all the remaining books in the top 100 and I’m fine with that. In fairness, I think I’ve grown out of reading from ‘best’ book lists and I’m not sure that I like the idea of this one as much as I did twelve years ago. But the Big Read introduced me to many books I would never have touched otherwise and I’m grateful for that.

I still have a copy of the list in my purse although it’s now been upgraded to include the full 200. I don’t use it much but it comes in handy sometimes when I’m stuck for a book and need inspiration!

Top Ten Tuesday: Most read authors

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke And The Bookish. This week’s theme is all about the authors I’ve read most.

I had a wee break from TTT because I found the last two topics a little tricky, a bit too niche for my reading/blogging habits. This week’s theme is more general so you’d think it’d be easier, wouldn’t you? My trouble is that although I like to think I’ve read books by a wide variety of authors, I don’t tend to read more than two or three books by any one of them. In reading terms I like to get around a bit. I’m a commitment-phobe.

1 Enid Blyton. Famous Five, Mallory Towers, Noddy…. I read them all. But not Secret Seven. Eurgh. I hated Secret Seven. Favourite: The Hollow Tree House.

2 Charles Dickens. I don’t want to sound like a stuck record but Dickens is one of the only authors I go back to again and again. I’ve read eight of his novels and some short stories too. Favourite: Probably Our Mutual Friend.

3 J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter was one of those very rare occasions when I read an entire series all the way through from beginning to end. It may only have been possible because I spread it out over fifteen years but still, quite an achievement in my eyes. Favourite: Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire.

4 Agatha Christie. When I’m feeling lazy, or I really just don’t know what to read, I turn to Christie. I’ve read so many over the years that the titles, plots and characters are starting to blur a little. Favourite: Murder On The Orient Express.

5 Roald Dahl. No surprises here. I had the complete set. I read them all. Repeatedly. Favourite: Either The Enormous Crocodile or The Fantastic Mr Fox…… or maybe Matilda.

6 Margaret Atwood. My old roommate was responsible for getting me completely hooked on Margaret Atwood. I never finished the Oryx and Crake series so one day I’ll go back and do that…. I hope. Favourite: The Blind Assassin.

7 Jacqueline Wilson. I read tons of these as a child and then read a load more when I was trying to finish the BBC Big Read. They were great. Favourite: Double Act.

8 Winston Graham. I discovered the Poldark books while I was staying at my grandparents’ house in Sussex one summer when I was about 12. Over three successive summers I read them all. Favourite: Ross Poldark.

9 Judy Blume. She understood teenagers. ‘nuff said. Favourite: Superfudge at first, Deenie when I was a bit older.

10 Graham Greene. I’m scraping the barrel with this one since I’ve only read four GG books, but that’s still more than I have most other authors. I got a bit obsessed with Graham Greene for a while. Favourite: Brighton Rock.

Persuasion (1818) by Jane Austen

“Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”

I have to admit to having been a little dismissive of Jane Austen sometimes. I’m not a big romance reader and I tend to associate Austen with those sorts of novels, albeit ones with drawing rooms and balls and petticoats. It’s unfair really; I know she’s better than that. Until now I’d only read one other Austen novel, Pride & Prejudice (of course), and liked it very much – in my eyes that gives Austen a 100% success rate so far. So why do I feel all snobbish about her work? I don’t know. I am a mystery to myself sometimes.

Image courtesy of www.waterstones.com

Image courtesy of http://www.waterstones.com

Anyway, I bought Persuasion on the spur of the moment one lunchtime last week. It was a decision made purely on the basis of the cover art. I want that red cape.

Persuasion was Austen’s last completed book and was published shortly after her death. Consequently its heroine, Anne Elliot, feels very grown up: she’s 27, which in Austen years is practically ancient. Eight years before the novel begins Anne was engaged to the handsome Captain Wentworth but broke off the engagement quite suddenly at the encouragement of her family and friends who all felt that he wasn’t rich or important enough for her. She’s regretted it ever since, so much so that she’s now a shadow of her former self: thinner, plainer, overlooked by her father and disdained by her stupid sisters. She’s an almost silent presence in the first few chapters, at least until Captain Wentworth returns from sea after a long absence. He’s now rich, and still single, but he makes it very clear that he’s moving on with his life and hasn’t forgiven Anne for her rejection.

It took me a while to shake off the comparisons to Pride & Prejudice but Persuasion got much better when I did so. Anne isn’t spirited and vivacious like Elizabeth Bennett; the other characters flutter around her and she stays silent. She’s an almost invisible presence among them for much of the first half. To begin with you don’t even really know quite how she feels about Wentworth; I mean, she’s inevitably nervous and a bit embarrassed about seeing him for the first time since she jilted him all those years ago, but does she love him? She plays her cards close to her chest. It’s nice to see her come to life gradually as you realise how much she’s concealing inside. Austen does this really well I think and Anne becomes a much more involving character as the book progresses.

I didn’t think Wentworth was as well developed, which is a shame but was perhaps inevitable since he spends so much of the book avoiding Anne. They barely say two words to each other for ages; it’s a clever way of building the tension between them. One of my favourite things about Pride & Prejudice (comparisons again!) is all that heated banter between Elizabeth and Darcy, when they can’t decide whether they’re attracted to each other or if they just really can’t stand each other. There isn’t any much of that here of course; Anne is quiet and reserved so the focus is very much on her thoughts rather than her conversation. This is a much more restrained romance and this feeling is emphasised by the lack of direct speech. Even during the key final scenes much of the speech is reported. It had the odd effect of making me feel like I’d been excluded from the romantic pay off, like I was watching it from a distance. It was a bit frustrating after the drama of the previous scene.

This is actually quite a minor complaint and I don’t really want to sound like I’m having a whinge about Persuasion because I did really like it. It had me hooked for three days and I loved Anne Elliot dearly; she felt like normal person. It’s so nicely written, so witty and sensible, that I was a bit sad to see it end. On this basis Austen maintains her 100% success rate.

Cold Comfort Farm (1932) by Stella Gibbons

Cold Comfort

After another minute Reuben brought forth the following sentence,

‘I ha’ scranleted two hundred furrows come five o’clock down i’ the bute.’

It was a difficult remark, Flora felt, to which to reply. Was it a complaint? If so one might say, ‘My dear, how too sickening for you!’ But then it might be a boast, in which case the correct reply would be ‘Attaboy!’ or more simply, ‘Come, that’s capital.’ Weakly she fell back on the comparatively safe remark, ‘Did you?’ in a bright, interested voice.

She saw at once that she had said the wrong thing…

This is my second time reading Cold Comfort Farm. The first was way, way back in 2003, shortly after I’d decided to read all the books on the BBC’s Big Read top 100 (it didn’t happen, in case you were wondering; I got to about 80 and gave up). It’s a shortish book so I thought it’d be a quick read and then I could cross it off the list and move on to the next one, which is exactly what I did – so quickly, in fact, that I now remember almost nothing about it (except, of course, that something nasty happened in the woodshed). I don’t remember being all that smitten by it but that could be because I was in such a hurry to get it out of the way. I probably didn’t take any of it in.

At the start of the novel young Flora Poste, recently orphaned, decides to cast herself on the mercy of her distant cousins, the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex. She finds the farm to be a gloomy sort of place and the Starkadders a brooding and emotional bunch, much prone to violent outbursts and hurling themselves down wells at the slightest provocation. They have names like Elfine, Urk and Harkaway and say things like:

Women are all alike – ay fussin’ over their fal-lals and bedazin’ a man’s eyes, when all they really want is a man’s blood and his heart out of his body and his soul and his pride…

Flora, in contrast, is a neat and rather modern young lady and, as you might expect, they all struggle to find some common ground. Thankfully she isn’t fazed by any of this. She views it all as an adventure, an opportunity to neaten up the Farm and bring those pesky Starkadders into line.

It’s actually a very silly novel but quite funny, funnier than I remember in fact. I read somewhere that it’s a parody of all those idealised rural romances made popular by the Victorians; I can see that there’s something deliberately Hardyish in those made up colloquialisms, the descriptions of the sunlight on the wet grass and in all that Starkadder sin and misery. It’s not supposed to be particularly subtle – the characters are pretty one-dimensional and some of the more dramatic scenes are deliberately ham-fisted – but it’s not supposed to be taken too seriously either. In fact, Gibbons kindly draws your attention to the more impressive examples with some neat asterisks. It’s a bit like she’s watching you read and doing that annoying nudge-nudge-wink-wink thing, just to check that you’re in on the joke. It would wear thin in a longer novel but Cold Comfort Farm is short enough for it to be funny, I think.

I enjoyed it much more this time round so I’m glad I took the time to read it properly. I imagine it’d be the sort of light hearted book you’d fancy at the end of a long, hard day, one that you’d return to again and again. It’s full of so many witticisms and prim common sense that it was difficult to choose the best quotes for this post (hence it being unusually quote heavy). Is it the comic masterpiece everyone says it is? I’m not sure but it’s funny and kind of charming and I love the Starkadders.

Far From The Madding Crowd (1874) by Thomas Hardy

“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.”

I was able to squeeze in a few solid hours of reading time yesterday and finally turned the last page at about 11pm. I could have finished earlier – on the train home from work even – but I decided to delay the last few chapters so I could finish them in bed. This is one of life’s little pleasures I think: finishing the book, turning out the light, thinking it over while you fall asleep…. I think Far From The Madding Crowd is one book that deserves a bit of mulling over.

Far From The Madding CrowdEverything centres around the beautiful (of course) Bathsheba Everdene, who inherits her uncle’s farm in rural Wessex and determines to run the estate herself without the hindrance of a husband or farm bailiff. In doing so she’s brought into contact with the three men who end up having a huge impact on the course of her life and the novel. There’s Gabriel Oak, her loyal shepherd; her neighbour, the reserved and repressed Mr. Boldwood; and Sergeant Troy, the rakish soldier who struts in mid-way through and undermines all the romantic groundwork put in by the other male characters. Bathsheba makes some poor choices, inadvertently hurts her admirers and gets hurt herself in turn.

Despite my initial reservations I ended up admiring Bathsheba a great deal. If she wasn’t such a strong, persuasive character I wouldn’t have cared enough, I wouldn’t have felt so drawn into her troubles. Slowly the reader understands that despite all of her faults – her extreme vanity, impulsiveness and pride – she’s really not all that bad. She has courage, conviction, self-belief and there’s even a little kindness under all that haughtiness. I do love a strong, independent female character (especially in a classic Victorian novel) and Bathsheba Everdene is exactly that. She isn’t a victim of circumstance; it’s her behaviour and her choices that drive the plot forward.

As I’ve mentioned, the plot takes a while to get going and I found the slowness infuriating at first. I see now, though, that this is really one of the best things about the novel. In fact, the slowness is the whole point. It’s satisfying to watch as Bathsheba eventually realises that her only friend, the only one worth having, has been there all along. It’s a relationship that evolves slowly, through the hardship and destruction caused by past affairs.

“They spoke very little of their mutual feelings; pretty phrases and warm expressions being probably unnecessary between such tried friends. Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other’s character, and not the best till further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality.”

I think I might be a little bit in love with this book.