Tag Archives: grandmothers

Grandmothers by Salley Vickers

GrandmothersTitle: Grandmothers
Author: Salley Vickers
Publisher: Viking, Penguin Random House UK
ISBN: 9780241371428
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 296
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I think everyone should read this book. I think everyone should read it because we need reads such as these that are heartwarming, and don’t pretend to be intellectual to be lauded by all. At the same time, Salley Vickers has this unusual style that I cannot put my finger on. Her novels are simple and easy to read, contain separate universes within them, and manage to strike a chord by the end of it. So, in the sense that there is this strong build-up to events, lives, and decisions that impact each character.

Grandmothers as the title suggests is about three grandmothers, who are very different women and their relationship with the younger generation. There is Nan Appleby, recently divorced and fiercely independent – who shares a great relationship with her grandson Billy. We then have Blanche – a widow, who has done nothing but adored her grandchildren Harry and Kitty but is forbidden access to them by her son Dominic and his wife Tina. Minna Dyer is the third grandmother (not in the literal sense) who lives in a shepherd’s hut in the country and has developed a grandmotherly relationship with Rose Cooper. Reading binds the two, and that is what brought them close.

If you are expecting thrills or something to happen in this book, then it won’t. Grandmothers is all about relationships, intersecting lives, and the back stories of women who are otherwise only seen as most ordinary. Salley Vickers takes her own time to even unravel some plot lines. The book is very easy to read and makes for a great afternoon spent in the company of heartwarming prose and maybe even get you teary-eyed in some places.

387 Short Stories: Day 14: Story 14: The Portrait of a Lady by Khushwant Singh

The Mark of Vishnu by Khushwant Singh

Title: The Portrait of a Lady
Author: Khushwant Singh
Taken from the Collection: The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories

“The Portrait of a Lady” by Khushwant Singh was my read for the day. Now I know what everyone thinks of Mr. Singh and his writing, however I would beg to differ. To a very large extent, he just says it how it is and several writers do that too. I also don’t think that there is an age to stop talking about sex. It is purely hypocritical of some people if they think this way and behave in another. Anyway, coming back to today’s story.

“The Portrait of a Lady” is a story of a grandmother – it is the portrait of a grandmother, and the relationship she shares with her grandson – from the time he is with her in the village to the time she is with him in the city and thereon. The story to a large extent also felt autobiographical and perhaps could be as well. I loved the story. The sentiment and the way Singh describes the bond in merely five pages, gave me more insight into his writing and how powerful it can be. A short story that will touch your heart.

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From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus

Setting her novel in Cagliari, Sardinia, author Milena Agus creates a story which spans three generations, focusing on women from two families who are joined through marriage. An unnamed contemporary speaker feels particularly connected to her paternal grandmother, and as the speaker pieces together this woman’s life from what she herself recalls about her and from the family lore which has survived through the memories of the rest of the family, she creates a woman who not only searches earnestly for love but is absolutely determined to experience it in all its splendor, believing that it is “the principal thing in life.”

The background to the story is simple and is simply presented. This grandmother is thirty in 1943, and unmarried–she has never had a real love. The local boys have always seemed to be attracted to her initially but then somehow are repelled within a few meetings with her, despite her beauty. Her eventual marriage, forced upon her by her father, who fears that her growing reputation of being mad will eliminate all future possibilities of marriage, is to an older man, a widower who has lost his family in the Allied bombing. Neither partner expects anything from the marriage, and she encourages her new husband to continue to visit the local brothels. When, after seven years and many miscarriages, her doctor advises her to go to a spa for treatment, her life changes, leading, nine months later to the birth of the speaker’s father. The speaker’s other grandmother, Lia, has had daughter at age eighteen with a local shepherd, who is married, and this daughter becomes the speaker’s mother.

As the speaker further develops the stories of these characters, the narrative swirls in time and place, and it is impossible to tell the extent to which the speaker may be embellishing them. Several story lines overlap, and the two grandmothers have similar experiences. Both grandmothers write poetry, and the deaths of true lovers (or those believed to be true lovers) seem to happen simultaneously. The reader does not know whether these are coincidence or if, memory being fallible, the speaker is confusing family lore and the family members who have experienced these events. Then again, she could be inventing everything, following in the tradition of her two writer grandparents.

Whatever the case, the novel deals beautifully with primal events and universal themes–the need to belong, the importance of ties to a community, the yearning for true love, the vagaries of chance or fate, the importance of memories, and the need to create. As the generations move forward from World War II to the present, each character must protect his/her memories against change in order to preserve a sense of selfhood. It is only the speaker who has the liberty to tinker with the past and/or the truth. When, in the conclusion, the speaker’s own life is brought up to date, the reasons for all these memories become clear, and her need to connect with the past poetically is understandable. Passion, in all its many forms, rules the lives of the characters here–and affects the reader, too

From the Land of the Moon; Agus, Milena; Europa Editions; $15.00