It is refreshing to encounter characters who make their livings outside the professional and academic spheres. MacDonald combines her knowledge of exotic settings and cultures with insights into the human heart to create outstanding stories.
The theme of surrendering self is just one topic explored through thoughtful dialogue and prose. The characterisation of a sensitive topic demonstrates how it is possible that horrendous things happen, and even people living under the same roof don’t realise what’s going on. We see first-hand why victims sometimes can’t speak out until many years after the event.
To me, Go Set a Watchman is a worthwhile work, although I wish Ms. Lee had been more precise about the historical context and had made Jean Louise a little less naive. Stylistically, the novel is dated, but that makes it authentic to the place and time in which it is set. Given the shocking instances of racial violence in the United States this past year, it would seem that Go Set a Watchman is relevant to our times.
It’s not just the characters that descend to their lowest level in this book. It’s also the medical profession, governmental welfare programs, and Mobil Oil where Gavin works scraping rust off pipes. However, Laguna never lets the characters – not even the most peripheral – slip into stereotypes. The Eye of the Sheep is a tender and delicate novel, rich with sympathy and understanding, even when it becomes almost unbearably dark.
This is a lovely, easy to read, and powerful book. The simplicity of its narrative belies a far deeper and more complex underlying truth, and this new Faber & Faber edition draws attention to how fresh and relevant the book remains to a modern audience.
O’Connor portrays Emily sensitively and sympathetically. Writers will identify with her need for peace and solitude, co-existing with a yearning for understanding and closeness. Emily’s girlhood friend, Susan Gilbert, who married her brother, Austen, was her closest friend.
The theme of Makkai’s collection seems to be the surprising, unusual, surrealistic, and supernatural. It is probably no accident that she starts the collection with a fable, since fables are by definition about the unusual and supernatural. The pogrom/war/ethnic cleansing stories involve startling occurrences, and so do the stories set in contemporary America.
“Night Drive” by Rubem Fonseca of Brazil is a Stephen Kingish story that shows the Mr. Hyde side of a seemingly benign Dr. Jekyll. Another story that I admire, “The Snake” by Eric Rugara of Kenya, is, on the surface, a picture of family cooperation to band together promptly to rid their home of a snake. It may also be a metaphor for the power of united action against any creeping threat. With eighty-six stories to choose from it is easy for a reader to find something s/he likes in this collection.
The book feels earnest. It pulls the reader along. From the beginning Jacob’s transformation/journey is about the role of artist as seer and priest in the world. Ideas of reincarnation, Identity, and the Self or Cosmic spirit all come together in an attempt to sing of life and time.
However, if you let go of preconceptions about what a novel should be and how it’s meant to function, and read the work, instead, as a literary exploration of the unseen, beyond the world of logic and progression, then the work becomes much more powerful, yielding a transcendence that moves beyond the flow of ordered progression. The work moves in pulses; in moments of magic that become “elixirs, life renewed in the laboratory of Arcadia” or humanity’s highest self.