A Family Fairytale – fine fiction

LONG TIME WALK ON WATER by Joan Barbara Simon

I have previously reviewed Joan Barbara Simon’s novel ‘Mut@Tus’. That novel was written after the one reviewed here.

I enjoyed this ‘Family Fairytale’ every bit as much – although it was quite different in subject matter.

This is a collection of stories – not a short story anthology – all the stories form a novel -but it’s a novel of episodes. In that respect it’s similar to the structure of
‘Mut@Tus’.

When I first began reading I got confused trying to follow a conventional novel timelinestructure. It took me a while to realise I didn’t have to worry about that. So
I restarted and just ‘went with the flow’ – definitely the approach to take.

It is a beautifully written book and the readers’ ‘ear’ soon becomes attuned to the passages that are written in dialect.

There is a large cast of characters – Jamaican and English. Some of the book is fact, and some of it fiction, and the author is meticulous in separating the two. The characters, who are all vividly drawn, tell their own stories. And it is the female characters who are the most affecting especially Emily, and the child, Mandy. This is a history of women – specifically of women in London’s
Jamaican immigrant community and of those they left behind when they came t0 England, and those they met and gave birth to once here. The various narrators are all connected. Love – especially maternal love – adequate or not – is a thread that runs all the way through.

The themes include dislocation, alienation, racism, belonging and family bonds.

The book is at times funny, poignant, erotic, unbearably sad, excruciatingly painful – but overall, it’s life affirming.

It’s rich, complex and cleverly put together.

In its subject matter and its structure, it is something unlike anything I’ve read before – and yet it’s recognisable and resonant – because all of life is in it.

It is an absorbing and affecting read and, it struck me, it would be excellent for a book group.
‘Long Time Walk on Water’ is published by Step Out
Creatives and is available on Amazon for £7.99.

 

MUT@TUS – sexy, funny,thoughtful read…

I’ve blogged about the Eight Cuts site before http://eightcuts.wordpress.com   and it’s best described in the words of its creator, Dan Holloway, as ‘a space to bring writers to readers and readers to writers in the most exciting way possible’.

‘MUT @ TUS’  by Joan Barbara Simon is one of the nominees for the 2010 Eight Cuts Gallery literary prize. I’ve just finished reading it. And – Wow!

The title suggested that the book would explore mutability and mutuality. The cover impressed and the unusual layout grabbed the attention. The content lived up both to the promise of the title and to the book’s good looks.

In this novel, modern ‘lady of letters’, Gini Mendes, engages in an epic of self-exploration, with particular attention to her sexuality. Her twenty-first century epistles are emails – sent and received by her – and through them she comes (no pun intended – well, okay then, it was meant) to fully know and express her needs.

The correspondence begins when Gini emails Maurice, an artist, from whom she has bought a painting. She has never met him but she wants him to know how much she likes and appreciates the work. Something clicks (yes, more punning) between the pair and many more emails are exchanged. They embark on a virtual affair played out via their increasingly intimate and passionate exchanges.

Even after the affair ends, Gini continues to interact in a similar way with others that she encounters online.

Throughout, Gini speculates and theorises on life in general and on her own life in particular. She considers the nature of subjectivity versus objectivity. She looks at the effects of instinct, sensory perception and intuition on cognition and how all of these interact to give humans their sense of self. She also examines the confines and downsides of the concept of time.

Big themes, yes – BUT- the novel is no literary bore. It’s exuberant, raunchy, erotic, funny and wonderfully honest. Like the painting that sparks the whole thing off, the book is vivid and arresting – from the start to the stunning and joyful ending.

Approach with an open mind and be prepared to be entertained. This is that great thing – a life affirming book.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mut-tus-Joan-Barbara-Simon/dp/1906558868/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1285183607&sr=8-1 click link to go to amazon and buy the book