Reading Maigret Enjoys Himself by the uber prolific Georges Simenon. Puts even Joyce Carol Oates to shame.
Finished: For Love Alone by Christina Stead. Rating: 3.5/5. Another intense, exhausting, forceful, peculiar, overwritten, brazenly intelligent and relentless novel by one of the most fascinating writers I know. It’s the odyssey of a young woman, poor and intelligent Teresa Hawkins, and her fierce determination in a culture shackled to puritanical ideals, to marry and find love, be free and know the world. Her experiences take her from an abusive, poisonous family in Sydney who depend on her measly income, across to the big, sooty city of London, where she becomes tangled in a confusing messy obsession with the infuriating, smart, manipulative misogynist Johnathan Crow, who Teresa finds alluring and helpful in her quest for satisfaction. Her journey from beginning to end in 600 pages required patience, but it was one of those novels that I was happy to be patient with, reveling as I did in the minds and philosophies of these characters as they starved after the truth about what love is, how it manifests itself, what purpose it serves in society, how it differs for men and women, for people from different classes, whether it is good or bad, or when it is good and bad, and whether it deserves to be sought or completely abandoned. Angela Carter described well, in her review of For Love Alone, what it’s like to be steeped in Stead’s fictional world: “To read Stead, now, is to be reminded of how little, recently, we have come to expect from fiction. Stead is of that category of fiction writer who restores to us the entire world, in its infinite complexity and inexorable bitterness, and never asks if the reader wishes to be so furiously enlightened and instructed, but takes it for granted that this is the function of fiction. She is a kind of witness and a kind of judge, merciless, cruel and magnificently unforgiving.” Reading this, like reading her novels The Man Who Loved Children and The Beauties and Furies, was a unique, gritty, aggressive, breathless, gratifying experience.