It was all things. And it was one thing, like a solid door. Its cold sealed the city in a gray capsule. January was moments, and January was a year. January rained the moments down, and froze them in her memory: the woman she saw peering anxiously by the light of a match at the names in a dark doorway, the man who scribbled a message and handed it to his friend before they parted on the sidewalk, the man who ran a block for a bus and caught it. Every human action seemed to yield a magic. January was a two-faced month, jangling like jester’s bells, crackling like snow crust, pure as any beginning, grim as an old man, mysteriously familiar yet unknown, like a word one can almost but not quite define.

Patricia Highsmith, ‘The Price of Salt’


January has been a rather good month, in terms of reading, for me. Managed to finish three books (although two of them were actually started before the year began), and it feels good.

I received a review copy of Anne Goodwin’s Sugar and Snails towards the end of last October, and actually started reading it back then. I usually don’t accept review copies since this blog was never much about book reviews anyway and frankly, because I am quite rubbish at it. But my interest was piqued with the storyline and I am glad to say that it has been a rather compelling read. The fact that I took so long to finish was no fault of the book, but simply my own tendency to get easily distracted.

I enjoyed the writing and although the story is told in alternating timelines between the present and the past, it was seamlessly executed. The slow unfolding of the protagonist’s story, is one coming-of-age story of a woman in her midlife who has to deal with secrets that can no longer be kept ‘secret’. To say more would spoil the way the story is meant to be told by the writer, who has very skillfully constructed the many layers in the storytelling.  Here’s what the writer has to say about the book.

For a book that is much about restraints and repressions, I found this particular passage to be most liberating.

Waking on the morning after Venus’s party, stretching my arms above my head and pointing my toes into the corners of the bed as the bells of St George’s tumbled in the distance, I felt as free as that twirling toddler in the oversized tutu. Revelling in the full four-foot-six of bed width, and the whole house beyond it. Alone, but not lonely. An entire day ahead of me to spend exactly as I wished. Answerable to no one but myself.

But my favourite line from the book was simply this:

I thought I’d managed to compose my face, if not my feelings…..

Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is not a book I would have likely chosen on my own to read because I am not really into fantasy books or fairy tales. If it wasn’t because this happens to be one of my favourite blogger‘s favourite book, I would have sadly missed out on the fun and wit (and even some rather profound truths) that came from the surprisingly enjoyable reading experience I had from it. Apart from some of the descriptive narrative on certain landscapes and certain characters which I was a little impatient to get over with at times, it was mostly an engaging read. It is a tale about the adventures and journey of an unicorn (and the friends she made along the way) on a mission to search for the rest of her kind, in order to know that she is not alone. It is also a tale of friendship and love (and much more). Told you I was really bad at reviews. :p

Here are some of my favourite lines from the book:

The magic on you is only magic and will vanish as soon as you are free, but the enchantment of error that you put on me I must wear forever in your eyes. We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.

from Schmendrick the magician, who has yet to become great.

“Weaver, freedom is better, freedom is better,” but the spider fled unhearing up and down her iron loom.

from the Unicorn to the spider, who would not stop at her meaningless futile labour.

My secrets guard themselves – will yours do the same?

from King Haggard to the Lady Amalthea.

And here’s the one that really made me laugh 😀

Prince Lir said hoarsely, “I must go. There is an ogre of some sort devouring village maidens two days’ ride from here. It is said that he can be slain only by the one who wields the Great Axe of Duke Alban. Unfortunately, Duke Alban himself was one of the first consumed – he was dressed as a village maiden at the time, to deceive the monster – and there is little doubt who holds the Great Axe now.If I do not return, think of me. Farewell.”

The writing is lyrical, and the book is peppered with exquisite little gems such as these: ‘the sigh of a satin gown’; ‘seeing the shadow of their dreams scurry over their faces’; ‘Prince Lir marveled suspiciously, which is an awkward thing to manage….’ and lastly, the delightful closing lines: “And this is what they sang as they went away together, out of this story and into another…..” 🙂

Despite both the above being engaging reads, it is still without doubt that my January has been just like the opening quote up there…. “It was all things. And it was one thing….”  It was Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt (a.k.a. Carol).

I have listened to the audiobook, followed by reading of the ebook (in parts), watched the film, and have been listening to nothing else but the soundtrack from the film ever since. I really love the music score, and am rooting for Carter Burwell to win the Oscar for Best Original Score. And for Cate and Rooney, of course, as well as for Best Screenplay, Best Costumes and Best Cinematography. I still cannot believe that the film was snubbed from a spot for Best Film and Best Director, though.  A real injustice, I feel.

I thought I have read the book some years back, but apparently I must have not read the book properly at all, because I seem to have recalled almost nothing (except the really major scenes) and even what I thought I remembered, turned out to be mostly inaccurate impressions. It was rather shocking to discover how unreliable my memory and impression of the book turned out to be. It was as if I was reading it for the first time again. Which made it all the more thrilling, actually. Quite a treat!

I came away with much more too this time around, and it’s not likely that any of this is going to slip away from memory as easily as it did before, because like a solid door, this particular January and its moments have now been safely shut in.

Carol raised her hand slowly and brushed her hair back, once on either side, and Therese smiled because the gesture was Carol, and it was Carol she loved and would always love. Oh, in a different way now, because she was a different person, and it was like meeting Carol all over again, but it was still Carol and no one else. It would be Carol, in a thousand cities, a thousand houses, in foreign lands where they would go together…..


2 thoughts on “January

  1. Is’t it just wonderful!? So much truth in it. That’s what I liked a lot..
    And then his playing with the fairy tale genre. Simply hilarious. 😀 I lack words to describe this book.. On the other hand, I also feel I could write many words, a proper paper, because of it’s richness..

    I haven’t read ‘The Prince of Salt’. Haven’t seen the movie either. Yet!.. I am looking forward to both. 😀


  2. If and when you do write a proper paper on it, do let me know. 🙂
    Same goes for the Highsmith book and film. Tell me what you think or feel about them after you have read and watched, ok? 🙂
    Am feeling abit sour this morning after learning from the news that the film failed to win anything at the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) last night, despite having gone in with one of the highest number of nominations (9). :/


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