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Saturday, 21 August 2010

Marion Molteno - Somewhere More Simple

Review by Jackie Hoyle on show 19th August 2010
Somewhere More Simple is a book I came across by accident a couple of years ago and found myself very moved by.

Set in the Scillies it is a beautifully written and perceptive book about the complexities of love and life in an island setting. It is a story of love, desire, acceptance, loss and forgiveness that I found very thought provoking and moving.

The story is based around 3 main characters:-

Cari is a teacher whose husband is totally absorbed in his studies leaving her feeling excluded and lonely. She spent some time on the Scillies as a child and remembers it as a place of peace, safety and security, where life was simple and untouched by complexities.

When she sees an advertisement for a temporary teaching position on St Marys she sees it as an opportunity to escape her stressful job in a city school and the inner confusions that seem to have overtaken her. But their move to the island exposes marital and emotional issues that Cari had been trying to ignore.

Anna, an artist in her 50’s, also has a past link to the islands. She has had a successful medical career, a family and a prosperous life on the mainland but a tragedy she feels unable to face or even to talk about has exposed the shallowness of her marriage, torn her family apart and led her to a solitary life, with very few possessions, in a cottage at Old Town.

Hugh, brought to the islands by his father as a teenager, tries to raise a family on St Martins, drawn by the beauty of the islands and a taste for self reliance and freedom, but when his wife returns to the mainland, taking their young son with her, Hugh feels abandoned, betrayed, leaving him bitter and isolated.

Gradually throughout the book the lives of these 3 people become intertwined and when, on a school trip to the mainland, a young girl disappears, all three are drawn into the mystery and are each forced to face their own past and follow their heart and reason, making simple choices to resolve issues of identity and commitment.

As a visitor to these beautiful islands I feel the authors descriptions of the people, the places, the ever changing weather and scenery of the islands are so captivating that the reader can really imagine themselves here - whether they are personally familiar with the islands or not.

The author observes very well, as I & I’m sure many others have, the way different people respond to the islands and what the islands mean to them. To some they are a place of calm, peace and serenity - a place to find safety and security - a place of escape, but also of freedom. To others they are enclosing, somewhere they could begin to feel trapped, claustrophobic even - somewhere they are happy to come on holiday to enjoy the scenery, the wildlife and the beaches - but they are glad when its time to go home. These feelings are reflected well in the characters of the book.

The landscape and atmosphere of the Scillies are sensitively captured and the way the peace, the simplicity, serenity and beauty, the spirit of the islands, gives these characters the space and time to find themselves, and accept and make peace with who they are, is a feeling with which I am sure many can identify.

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