Saturday, 25 September 2010
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Illyrian Spring is one of those reads that pulls you in so that you are the characters. Their experiences are as vivid as your own and they become so real that to finish the book is a wrench. The protagonist is Lady Kilmichael who is also the famous painter Grace Stanway. Grace decides to escape her family and leave her life behind to go on an unplanned trip drifting and painting her way through Italy, Croatia and the eastern coast of the Adriatic sea which used to be known as Dalmatia.
Whilst in Venice, Grace meets the young Nicholas Humphries who is around the same age as her twin sons. He is an aspiring painter whose parents have convinced him to pursue the sensible route of architecture and give up painting. Just as Grace is looking for freedom from the pressures of domestic life and the associated responsibility, so Nicholas is looking for freedom from his parents rule.
Grace and Nicholas go on a journey together. They paint and explore the landscape and their lives become further and further entwined as each embarks upon an intense journey of self-discovery.
What is so interesting about Ann Bridge's writing is the insightful portrayal of characters who are in a state of flux and running away from their lives. There is no melodrama, only the deep intensity of two souls searching for answers and finding each other to aid them in their understanding.
The search for freedom on Grace's part leads her to make some startling discoveries about herself. The freedom that she craves is not gained from running away from her life but from looking inside herself and examining the truth of her problems with her family. In this way, Bridge writes with psychological astuteness and her novel is timeless as a result. After all, how many of us avoid a difficult situation by leaving it?
This book is a simply lovely and wonderful read, made more wonderful by the description of the beautiful landscapes that Nicholas and Grace explore. It made me yearn to go travelling along the Adriatic coast with only a rucksack and a pair of tennis shoes. I would swap the paint and canvas for a notebook and pen though.
Illyrian Spring seems to be a difficult book to get your hands on, I was fortunate enough to be given it by my lovely friend Rachel. She loved it and raved about it and I know exactly why - it is an honest portrayal of a realistic adventure. In other words, the reader feels as if the experiences of Grace are obtainable, if we just left a note and hopped on a train. In that way, it is made even more magical as it delves into a part of us that we all keep hidden. The part that wants to run away. The novel makes it perfectly clear though, that at some point we have to make a decision about going back and Ann Bridge leads us gently by the hand to the right decision.
If you can find this book, buy it. Beg, borrow or steal it. Reading it is like slipping into a new skin and embarking upon a trip during which life presents some answers to a few troubling questions. All this in the midst of a delicate romance in a breathtaking location where the sea sparkles and time is an irrelevance. I think I may have to dive back in.
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Friday, 17 September 2010
I am going home to Chichester for the weekend to stay at my mother's house. As soon as I walk in the door I will be met with the warm fug of cooking smells and my mum will greet me in her apron. The familiarity of my childhood home is something that I cherish and I love curling up on my mum's sofa with the family cat, Oscar, a cup of tea in hand and a huge slice of homemade cake with a good book.
In preparation for a weekend of reading, and due to the fact that I was escaping a rain shower, I bought three books in the Oxfam bookshop on St Giles; William Golding's The Spire, Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native and a rather amazing looking Virago which I am particularly excited about.
Before I start these however, I must finish Ann Bridge's Ilyrian Spring which is one of my favourtie reads of 2010 so far. Simply perfect. A review will follow!
Thursday, 16 September 2010
I love Burne-Jones and one of the real treats of this exhibition is that Andrew Lloyd-Webber has lent The Fall of Lucifer from his private collection. The painting is haunting and at 2.5 metres high is quite over-powering. The gilded edge contrasts beautifully with the gloomy, lowly colours of the painting as Lucifer and his reprobate angels fall from heaven.
Cycling home through the quiet streets of Oxford is such a delight at this time of year. Our way home was lit by the stars and we were accompanied by the peal of bells as bell-ringers were practising for Sunday. September is one of my favourite months as the smell of woodsmoke starts to creep in and the gentle chill reminds me that cosy evenings are on their way.
I am going to plan the books that I will take with me to Italy. Thank you for all your Italy inspired reading suggestions. I now have to narrow it down so that I leave some room for my toothbrush.