My only “Jane Gardam” reading is limited to The Hollow Land despite her claim to fame with the trilogy Old Filth. Finding a copy of God On the Rocks in a local Little Free Library was a treat many months ago, and it has been sitting on my bookshelf until this month. Summer. A fine time to explore more works by good authors.
Again, Gardam’s main protagonist is a child – bible-quoting, 8 year-old Margaret this time rather than young boys – and so I anticipated similar character development. Yes, even plot lines, dear reader, I hoped would be akin to The Hollow Land which I loved so much. Not so this time.
This is a most unusual tale in many ways that I am not sure I can even speak to it as well as it deserves. Rather, I will contradict the New York Time’s review. While I do agree that Margaret is an anchor in a harbor of very strange folk, dare I say psychologically suppressed without the least amount of introspection, I am not sure she is a conscious of this as one might think. She – an odd child of even odder parents – is singular in her approach to her circumstances. As the reader, making sense of all of this is challenge for one such as I who revel in linear stories; this one goes back and forth. Combining the characters, the unusual plot, and the time overlays make me feel as if I too am a resident of Gardam’s Seaview Villa.
Perhaps this was the author’s goal? If so, she darn well accomplished it with this reader. And “No,” Miss Kline. I would not call this a charming novel (or a “comedy” as IMDB notes for the film version) nor do I know intimates who remotely “resemble our most beloved friends and relations.” I prefer all of these characters’ quirkiness to remain on the printed page.
Gardam, Jane. God On the Rocks. Europa Editions, 2010.
Kline, Nancy. “Abnormal Psychology.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 Oct. 2010. Web. 09 Aug. 2017.