His wife, when she’s with him, will point something out.
‘Doesn’t it make you feel proud?’ she will ask.
‘It will hang forever on a wall, your signature beneath it — something you have created that nobody else could have created. And it doesn’t make you –? I mean, how could it not?’
‘I guess, I don’t see things the way you do.’
‘You don’t love it? Maybe it’s just as well we didn’t have children. I mean you create something and yet you don’t even love it?’
‘It? What do you mean by it exactly?’
‘You know — that barn, this farm, that house–now immortalised.’
‘Then I guess no, I don’t love it.’
He doesn’t tell her that when he finds it at first, then, yes, all right, he feels it. When he carries it in his head and silently waits for it to take form. When he shyly glances at the sketches he’s made and feels the urge inside him. When it’s there in his head coming out of the dusk. Then it’s love all right. More love than he has ever felt for her, or any other woman.
The Narrow Land ( Atlantic Books) by Christine Dwyer Hickey is about ten-year-old Michael, survivor of German concentration camps, and his incredible friendship with the artists Jo and Edward Hopper.
It is an elegant novel that does one of the toughest acts — inserts itself in a marriage, to understand the couple at the heart of this relationship and their creativity. At the same time it creates these unexpected inter-generational alliances, creating spaces for the young and the old to become strong personalities in their own right and not necesarily to be judged from the outside by observers. It is an incredible feeling as a reader to be exposed to the chatter of others, building up the personalities of the protagonists, only to suddenly discover oneself in an intimate space with them, be privy to their thoughts and emotions and the remarkably ordinary universe they inhabit. As if the writer is goading the reader to look beyond the obvious in the story, just as any artist would delve deep within themselves to discover their creativity.
11 Jan 2021