Well, it’s official. I have fallen into the great reading apathy hole. Wholly sunk. I have no idea why but it seems that every book I pick up languishes, plods, clunks and is eventually surrendered. Never before has sleep been more exciting that the printed word.
So, imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon Moorehouse’s last book in the Edith trilogy? Allow me to explain: I drowned in the first two Edith books. I read them so quickly that I barely took a breathe – and for those of you who don’t know, they are massive Tolstoy-like tomes. As a character, Edith is simply riveting, she bounces off the page. She is quite literally bubbling with all she believes and the way she lives her life is so vibrant that it is contagious. The first two of the trilogy clearly explored Edith’s passion set against the distressing backdrop of a world in flux, the creation and demise of the League of Nations which Edith and her crew hoped would save the world from further destruction and the devastation of the War. Moorehouse depicted Edith as a type of saviour, albeit in a dress! And yet, despite her hero profile, she was simultaneously illicit, cavorting with cross dressers and at clubs hidden from the public eye. Edith was a star.
Thus, my excitement at seeing Cold Light, the final book in the Edith trilogy. Finally, I thought to myself, a book to bring me out of the slump! I grabbed this massive tome quickly before anyone else had a chance to notice it and raced home to bury myself once again in Edith-land.
But, Edith-land no longer exists … or else, I as the reader who devoured Dark Palace and Grand Days no longer exists. What is left is a disconcerting Edith who doesn’t know who she is and what she is doing. There are sparks of her former glisten there hidden beneath the Canberra gloom, but she is mostly snuffed out. The high drama of the first 150 pages of this book is Edith occupying an office in a government building and working out how to furnish it. Dismal. Edith’s wow and pizazz is gone and I have to confess that I was so dismayed that I couldn’t read this book… I couldn’t soldier on past page 150 – and it was a struggle to even get to 150!
And what was most frustrating was that I could actually feel Edith’s own frustration at the way that the world had changed. She seemed to be struggling to fit into this box labelled ‘acceptable’ and failing miserably. In fact, she seemed miserable … her whole world seemed miserable. Here she is, married to an equally frustrated and frustrating non-husband (I won’t give away any more!), for all her past glories she seems useless in this new world. Redundant. I wanted to say ‘Poor Edith’ and pat her on the back, I wanted to say ‘Sit down Poor Edith and have a cup of tea’ … and what I really wanted to say was ‘FRANK! Couldn’t you have condensed this bloody book and made it more readable??’
But, of course, I said none of this and I just quietly struggled through enough of the book so that I could honestly say that I tried and then I sadly returned it to that dark chute in the library where books disappear to be returned to the stack.
So, I farewell Frank and I farewell Edith with a touch of sorrow and a large measure of relief. I am now reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace and although it’s moving rather slowly, it is remarkably entertaining and I am determined to finish it!