Monday, June 1, 2009

Fiona Farrell(2)

Queen’s Birthday – another bleak southerly day so what better way than to continue reading 'Limestone'. Fiona Farrell grew up in limestone country but now lives on Banks Peninsula. In the opening of her novel - a paen of praise for limestone - the narrator says that those who grow up on basalt have a sense of insecurity.

That’s made me pause to think. Those sentinel hills of childhood’s Little River seemed permanently solid. I knew Akaroa and Lyttelton harbours were old volcano craters but somehow I never envisaged boiling rock. I always put my insecurity down to my father's death when I was five. Maybe I was wrong. Certainly in Auckland I feel aware of the volcanic presence. It is not so long since Rangitoto last erupted. Likewise in Wellington the fault-line is strikingly obvious.

Farrell’s description of the long haul flight from New Zealand to Heathrow reminded me of David Lodge’s writing. She describes Oamaru lovingly. ‘St Patrick’s with a bosomy Latinate dome, St Luke’s with it's demure English spire, and an assortment of determinedly dowdy little non-conformist chapels. They built schools mimicking Eton with mullioned windows and Virginia creeper and harbour-side warehouses with carved archetraves resembling twisted rope.’

It’s a novel you want it to end to find out what happened. At the same time you don’t want it to end because you’re enjoying it so much. Farrell’s technique’s like a detective story sucking in the reader The plot keeps getting interrupted by what appears to be another diversion but which adds another strand to an already complex story. Brilliant!

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