Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Leftover from the First Name Challenge: Dot by Araminta Hall

published 2013






[A civil wedding in the 1980s]


When he arrived, hot from the bus in his charity shop suit which smelt of death, Alice and Clarice were waiting outside the municipal council building, even though Tony had made sure he was early. Alice looked absurdly beautiful. She was in a white silk dress with flowers in her hair and a tiny bump, which you would never know was a baby, rounding her stomach. His heart lurched involuntarily at the sight of her, at the knowledge that the girl everyone was looking at wanted to be joined to him. He’d never seen the dress before and he wondered if she’d bought it especially for the occasion, which touched him, until he checked the ridiculousness of his thoughts. What bride didn’t buy a dress especially for her wedding?




observations: There’s a complex backstory to my reading this book.

Earlier this year, Col (of Col’s Criminal Library) and I undertook a challenge, arising from some discussion on our blogs of the very different nature of the books we liked. Each of us said we would read a book by someone with a first name completely new to us, in literary terms: ie we had never previously read a book written by someone with that first name.

You can read my blogpost on the challenge here.

So I read Wiley Cash’s This Dark Road To Mercy (which I picked from Col’s archives). Col read this book, as I had suggested that Araminta was the kind of name he didn’t deal with.

He kindly sent the book on to me. Now that I’ve read it, there is no doubt that in the case of Wiley vs Araminta, the winner is Wiley. I think I got the best of the deal – the Wiley Cash book was a great read, compelling and satisfying. This one, not so much. It had a baffling structure, and no sense of time or place. I think Col is more generous in his review, and I strongly recommend that you go over to his blog and read what he has to say about it. And I would agree with Col's verdict on the ending:
Slightly contrived ending owing a fair bit to convenience, though at least we were spared a lot of sugar-coated guff. The author wisely avoided a full-on, marshmallowy, fluffy, puppy dog and kittens wrapped up in bows with ribbons and fairy lights, OTT schmaltz-fest of a conclusion. To be fair, you would have had to have a heart of stone, to have not felt something as each of the main players in our drama had an epiphany and came to realise the consequences of their previous actions and the hurts they had often-times unwillingly inflicted on those they professed to love.

There were some points of similarity with other recent novels of provincial life – Nina Stibbe’s Man at the Helm, and JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy.

And it turns out that Araminta Hall, Col and I all share a love for John Irving’s wonderful novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, so a point in her favour.

The picture is from a shampoo advert of the era - this was the Timotei girl. There is a similar wedding, outfit and picture for this entry.

12 comments:

  1. Moira - I remember your agreement with Col. After reading your excellent post on this, I think, honestly, that I'll give it a miss. I like books with a solid context, and Col's comment about contrived endings doesn't exactly push this one onto the TBR either. Appreciate you both cherry-picking....

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    1. It's as my new motto says - we read these things so you don't have to! I'm glad I read it, but I can't honestly say everyone should....

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  2. Moira, glad to see that your reaction was fairly similar to mine. Not the worst book ever and it had its moments, but I'm kind of glad the challenge wasn't 2 books by Araminta. 2 by Wiley would leave you a street ahead on the deal.

    Thanks for linking back and the shout out - we must do this again sometime soon! BTW and totally irrelevant - we used to have Timotei in our house growing up!

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    1. Yes we should do it again, it was fun.
      I think we all had Timotei - below the picture there was a picture of the bottle, and I could almost feel it in my hand with its solid green lid with a ridge round it....

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  3. I am glad you read this book for me. And it is good to get a reminder of Wiley Cash. I have his first book on Kindle, although I have a lot of Southern books on my plate already and I have to ration them out.

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    1. I will definitely read another book by Cash at some point - I really liked his style, and found that book most compelling.

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  4. One comment: I now love the name Araminta. Will have to look up its meaning and derivation. It's lovely, like a flower or plant with a touch of mint.

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    1. I didn't think to look up the meaning, Kathy, but it does have a certain ring to it, doesn't it. I think you would be nervous of calling your daughter that in case she didn't live up to the name.

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  5. No wonder I like it. It's the birth name of Harriet Tubman, leader of the Underground Railroad over here and much more.

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    1. I certainly know who Harriet Tubman is, but had no idea that was her name...

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  6. Well, if a daughter were named Rose or Lily, which a lot of children are named nowadays, they'd have a lot to live up there, too. A friend's daughter is named Dalia; I love it for her.

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    1. YOu can't think too hard about these things, but some names do seem to suit some people better than others.

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