Into Your Ornamental Garden

PONDPOND: one of the rare books I’ve shelled out for based on page 1. I would have to say though that page 1 is one of the finest in it, and whereas the whole little book is gorgeous, it is also at times so insular I felt like the Prince in Coover’s Briar Rose whacking through perpetual thickets in search of a Sleeping Beauty who may or may not wake to my touch.

In other words, it is language the drives it, and oddness and brilliance, and these things, in any one writer, are so individual they either thrill you or they don’t. In my case they thrill me. I like, too, what Meghan O’Rourke, the poet and memoir-ist wrote of Pond in the New York Times:

More than anything this book ­reminded me of the kind of old-fashioned British children’s books I read growing up — books steeped in contrarianism and magic, delicious scones and inviting ponds, otherworldly yet bracingly real. Somehow, Bennett has written a fantasy novel for grown-ups that is a kind of extended case for living an existence that threatens to slip out of time. Such a life, Bennett suggests, is more actual than list-laden, ego-driven, “successful” adulthoods.

Claire-Louise-Conor-Horgan1-e1443438634491-215x225And now for that page 1: “First of all, it seemed to us that you were very handsome. And the principal windows of your house were perfectly positioned to display a blazing reflection at sunset. One evening while walking back from the fields this effect was so dramatic we thought your rooms were burning. We liked nothing better than to rake the tinkling gravel on your drive then to climb an impeccable tree along its passage and wait. We could hear the engine loud in the valley, followed by a thrilling silence within which we would wave our boots and imagine the leather grip of your hands upon the steering wheel, left and right. Oh, but we were only little girls, little girls, there on the cusp of female individuation, not little girls for long. The other two hung back by the brook with cups on sticks while I made my way over the wall into your ornamental garden, lay down upon the unfeasible grass and fell to sleep wrapped about a lilac seashell, which was of course my most cherished possession.” Dazzling.   – Claire-Louise Bennett

About louisewleonard

Author of 52 Men, 2015. Excerpts in The Rumpus, Tin House, Fiction Advocate and Gargoyle.
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