Because this book is 1200 pages long and I not yet convinced I will make it through the whole thing (yesterday I read 110 pages and that DID make me more confident), I will be blogging as a I go.
Section 1: 1-200
The opening of this book involves a bus ride. The first page or so tracks the in depth observations of the narrator, Vera Cartwheel, as she looks around the bus and makes suppositions on the various people she sees.
As the novel progresses we learn more about her raison d’etre, which is a metaphorical and spiritual journey to find the ersatz mother figure of her youth…the titular Miss MacIntosh, who raised her and guided her through her youth when her mouth, an opium addict, could not. Miss MacIntosh disappeared or died in mysterious circumstances.
We also get the backstory of Mr. Sptizer, the eclectic owner of the house Vera grows up in.
I cannot yet explain the complexity of the prose, which is impressionistic and beautiful, but not always connected to real life in meaningful ways. The last 50 pages of this section were the most connected I have felt with the story, but so far I think I am confirmed enough to read it.
Section 2: 200-400
So this section begins with the long narration of a opium-laced delusion/dream. It goes on for QUITE a while. This section also involves a really interesting adventure possibly involving inter-dimensional travel. I should say HOWEVER that this is not that kind of novel and I don’t think the character involved actually does travel. What comes across to me in this section and another one close by is that the narrator is presented her confused interpretations of childhood memory as a straightforward set of narration and the inherent confusion of what these images collectively form creates this sense of otherworldliness. For example, there’s a section where she catches the barest glimpse of her caretake Miss MacIntosh as a balding, unnatural old figure. I think this is the trick of the light or some other rational explanation, but the childish mind, unable to process has created a fractured version of reality, the same way someone who experiences trauma (Ahem, this narrator has MOST definitely experienced trauma) creates a fractured version of reality colored and created by persistent stress and cortisol. I also think the constant barrage of allusions she makes to make sense of her world suggest she’s looking for classical literature and storytelling to fill in the gaps that her psyche is just unable to fill.
I was worried that going into this section I would hit a wall. I feel good moving forward, and I will press on. I may or may not take a break at the mid-point (which I should hit in a few days) and reassess, but who knows.
Section 3: 400-600
And then I lost the thread a little. The novel starts going wildly in depth into the inner life of a series of different characters
Section 4: 620-1200
And then I blazed through the last half of the novel. It was an interesting and exhausting series of reading dates, and I found it to be mostly rewarding, but the reflections that I will eventually make on this novel are not going to happen today.
I will perhaps read this again in 25 years and see what happens when I do.