Grief's a funny thing. It seeps into your being whatever measures you put in place to try and stop it penetrating. The way I picture it, it's taken hold of my insides like ivy might consume a house. Among the centres starved of energy and choked of oxygen have been my my reading and writing parts, which has meant that two of the things I would normally turn to for solace and comfort have been cut off, thus adding to the problem.
I've been reminded once again that it's often people who make the most difference. Friendship and compassion in all of their forms- smiles, gestures, gifts, warm words, offers of support and the like- really do make a difference.
One such gesture that has helped me along came in the form of the arrival of a book in the post. It came from Colman Keane who is behind the excellent review site for all things crime here at Col's Criminal Library. It's a great place to find new material, in no small part due to his voracious appetite for books, TV and films, and you should check it out if you've not been there before. I trust and respect his opinions and happened across his thoughts on Edgar Mint. I mentioned that it was the kind of book that might help me out of this ditch I've been in and he sent it along.
What I think caught my attention in that review was the mention of resilience and stoicism, both of which I felt I might benefit from at the time (and still could). And he was right about the need for those qualities. For Edgar Mint, the passage through life is not a smooth one. He's born into a world that doesn't really want him, so much so that the running over of his head by a mail truck could be construed as a blessing of sorts.
He's taken to hospital in order to recover and there begins a pattern where he finds a way through the most adverse situations with the help of people who are drawn to him and decide to take him under their wings.
There's no soft-soaping his journey through life. It's about as tough as anyone could cope with. Particularly brutal is his time in an institution for children who are able to inflict cruelty and pain in ways that I wouldn't have begun to imagine and hope I can forget before too long.
It's a kind of patchwork of a novel where you move between time period and situation in a way that isn't always linear. Each strand is absorbing and the meandering always take you to a point of interest. Much of the tragedy is related in a matter-of-fact style, but there's a gentle warmth through it all and always a hope that things will get better somehow.
The conclusion is one that took me by surprise with a twist that offers a new filter for what has gone before, but that's not for me to mention here.
I'm glad that I stumbled into the review and I'm grateful for kindness that allowed me to read it. The slow burn was exactly what the doctor ordered. Thanks Col.
And it gets better. Having managed to build up periods of concentration spanning more than a couple of minutes, I set off reading The Man With The Getaway Face. It's the opposite of Mint- direct, pacy, tense, totally stripped back and gripping from the off- and I couldn't be more grateful to be able to focus on books once again.
Now all I need is to find the equivalent medicine for the writing. Though I'm not sure in what form it might come, I'm going to take a leaf out of Edgar's book and just get on with it until things change.