Saturday, 12 November 2011


When I started blogging, I fully expected this would turn out to be a book blog. Turns out that I'm lazy when it comes to writing about books. By the time I've given a book time to settle in my mind ... well, by then I'm usually on to the next thing. And the moment passes.
So I have huge regard for a blog like Cornflower's that keeps up the momentum of coming up with something perceptive every day.
It was Karen who first alerted me to Francesca Kay whose first book An Equal Stillness is probably the best novel about art that I've ever read. I couldn't quite believe that Jennet Mallow's paintings existed only on the page and that I wouldn't be able to find them in Tate Britain.
So I came to her second novel The Translation of the Bones with high expectations - quite apart from the fact that it's on Karen's book of the year list.
And I have to admit that at first I was a bit disappointed. If I'm honest, I wanted An Equal Stillness 2 (and 3, and 4. It was that good.) And when the new novel opened in a Catholic church with a simple-minded young woman, washing the wounds of the crucified Christ with something from Body Shop, and persuading herself that she has been chosen as the conduit of a miracle ... I felt a bit confused. Was it a heavy-handed attempt to be funny? Please God, let it not turn out to be a Catholic version (not so many jumble sales but lots of Hail Marys) of Barbara Pym's novels about vicarage groupies.
So a shaky start for me. But then the characters started growing on me. The visceral loneliness of the women; Mary-Margaret's aching for something to love; her fat, bloated mother, trapped in a tower block of flats, still yearning for a fleeting passion she had known as a once beautiful girl back in Ireland. A priest who seems lacerated by a faith that is too passionate to bear. The ending, unfortunately, a bit too shocking to be believable.
I'm glad I read it and I still think that Francesca Kay is a very fine writer. But she set the bar very high with An Equal Stillness - and this time, I think, she's fallen a few notches short of that flawless perfection.

5 comments:

Noelle said...

For someone who rather share art reviews than posting book reviews, your descriptive review was eye catching. I will endeavour to check this title therefore in the near future but in the meantime, thank you for the many glimpses of art galleries, museums and such you have shared in your blog.
It is like a stroll amongst some very unique displays of talent, some very well known, some even obscure yet always interesting and all with the flair expected of Mrs. Miniver's daughter! I appreciate this little bit of culture mixed in with your (witty) observations and I thank you for sharing!
A big hello from the Pacific Northwest coast!

StuckInABook said...

I'm amused about the idea of your blog changing form from your original plan! I do find myself forgetting all about the books I've read, so quite a few leave the read-and-need-to-be-reviewed unreviewed...

Cait O'Connor said...

What a coincidence, I have recently read An Equal Stillness so I do appreciate this new recommendation.
Another great title too The Translation of the Bones. Lovely to find your blog, I have added it to my ones I must visit list.

mary said...

Noelle, what a very kind comment. Thank you. I love the idea of somebody reading this in the Pacific Northwest!

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's so forgetful, Simon! I suppose blogs reflect life in the end - so mine was always going to be a bit of this and a bit of that!

mary said...

Hello, Cait - nice to have a new visitor! I was also intrigued by the title - and I'd love to have an explanation from Francesca Kay.