THE MOON. “The year is 1865 and Ignaz Semmelweis is dragged along the corridor though he struggles violently, kicks and shouts.”
THE TOWER. “The year is 2153 and Prisoner 730004 is forced into a cell.”
THE EMPRESS. “The year is 2009 and Brigid feels the birthing pains deep within her and knows it has begun.”
THE HERMIT. “For years he had failed and failed again; he had been disappointed a hundred times and then he had the book in his hand.”
OOoooh goodness. Four different story lines from three different time periods weave together a tale of love, pain, guilt, misunderstandings, confusion, regret and finally, wonder.
I read most of the present day birthing scene parts while traveling on Mother’s Day; I really felt the significance. I won’t debate how authentic or realistic, though I have seen some goodreads.com reviews that say it isn’t – – how can anyone really question another’s experience anyway? I thought the writing in the EMPRESS section was vivid and emotional charged.
In fact, I thought the writing was spectacular in many ways in every section. The construction at the end, when each storyline was only a paragraph and we rapidly switched from one to the next, was fabulous and quite effective. The pacing here was intense.
However. I did end up with questions. I was not convinced with the future timeline events and connections. I am eagerly awaiting the discussion scheduled for next week and why I had to write and post this review now versus later. I have been reading other reviews (see a few links at the end of this post) and most have been favorable and pointing out themes and issues that somehow make sense to me now but I missed while reading. Hand slap to forehead, but that is me.
Perhaps because I had read the nonfiction selection on Semmelweis first, I was very interested in this part particularly. Also, the HERMIT storyline was wonderful – this was my favorite part which seems to put me in the minority. Some book blurbs don’t even mention this 4th ‘story ‘ – it was about a guy who had given up living in order to write and finally after many years, he has a book (the Semmelweis storyline!) published and is feted around town. I was captivated by his discomfort with success when it had been his goal for so long. I thought Kavenna brilliantly portrayed his stress in conversation and setting. And yet, I didn’t quite relate to the parts about him being desperate to reconnect with his mother – I felt it was more a flight option/excuse to get out of the parties in his honor than a new realization of his love for mommy. Yet this was likely the connecting theme to the other stories.
Does this mean that I enjoyed the action and thought processes of the characters more than their motivations? I somehow glossed over the mother-child love connection theme that threaded through each story. I really missed it on the future timeline thing and felt clubbed a bit for the obvious links provided and yet then wondered, “Hey, WTH?! ”
“She kissed him and held him to her, whispering in his ear, telling him how precious he was and how much she loved him. Though she felt spiky and savage within, she never doubted that she loved her son Her love was infinite; she sensed that there was a deep infinite core of love, and then a lesser love, her surface emotion, where everything got sullied by quotidian demands, and mingled with guilt.” p.50
Any bookclubbers looking for a highly discussable book would not do wrong by selecting The Birth of Love. I am putting Joanna Kavenna on my author-to-watch list. The more I think about this book, the more I am impressed.
You still have time to read this before next week’s discussions! Visit CitizenReader.com or come back here, I will link up to each batch of questions/discussions as they unfold.
p.28 – traduced – speak badly of or tell lies about (someone) so as to damage their reputation.
p.36 – malefactor – a person who commits a crime or some other wrong.
p.49 – augury – a sign of what will happen in the future; an omen.
p.57 – charnel house – associated with death.
p.60 – unguent – “…her hair newly dyed, skin creamed with some expensive unguent, her jewelry sparkling…” – a soft greasy or viscous substance (I thought this word totally disrupted the imagery of the rest of the sentence; perhaps it was supposed to.)