'Memories were strange things: paper fragments, some black with jagged edges and some softly curving and brightly coloured.'
I thought this was a really good premise for a story, and I was drawn in by the idea of Marianne looking back; I was interested in who she would find from her school days and how far she would go in terms of getting in touch with her former classmates from so many years before. This theme touches on something which many people will have toyed with, with the advent first of Friends Reunited, and then in more recent years facebook, both offering new ways back to the past. But is this always a safe path, an advisable one to take? We don't know what people will be like now. We may find happy nostalgia, but we may uncover sadness and hurt that has lain dormant. For Marianne, the one person she would be interested in hearing from is Edward, and the idea of finding him becomes somewhat of a preoccupation for her. Should she succeed in finding him, would getting in touch be the right thing to do?
Marianne is very prone to introspection; we are party to her thoughts and to the words she records in her journal as she analyses her days and thinks everything over. She is also prone to dwelling on the negative side with regard to events and recollections, and forgetting the more pleasant things that happened, something that is admittedly all too easy to do and which I identified with. 'She forgot the good times...and just remembered always feeling isolated, marginalised, bullied and downtrodden....The lesson was to learn perspective, but she hadn't learnt it yet.' Though I was willing her to no longer be blighted by past sadness, I understood that she was deeply scarred by it; events can haunt us even when, or perhaps because, we have kept them locked away, trying to protect ourselves.
The novel looks at the enduring impact that bullying can have; Marianne tells us that 'the frightened girl is still within me. I hear her crying sometimes; I feel her pain when they call her names.' Despite a marriage that has been very happy and a lovely daughter, she is haunted by the damage inflicted during those early school days.
I thought this was a thoughtful, emotional and moving novel of one woman's midlife journey through difficult times, self-criticism, past pain and confusion towards an understanding and acceptance of her past and a reassessment of her present; events are portrayed with sensitivity and perception by the author. This is a story about memories, hurt, emotional scars, love and life.
Read about the story behind Meeting Lydia in this guest post by the author on Jera's Jamboree book blog.
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