Another kind of golden landscape
Georgina Harding has a wonderful gift for the evocation of time, place and the physical heft and weave of life. I read, with absorption, her previous 2 novels The Spy Game, and The Solitude of Thomas Cave, where her use of language, her quiet and rich ability to really inhabit another person’s truthful, unique inner landscape, was mesmerising.
With those earlier 2 books, I got so far, so very far, but could not go to the final 5th star, ‘ I love this’ as something, in each case, did not completely work
Set in Romania, before the second world war, and finishing some years later, when grim, Stalinist Communism had placed other changes upon that country, her central character is a young, deaf mute baby at the start, child of a servant in the great house, and the parallel life this child, and the daughter of the great house, inhabit. Childhood in the house for both of the infants, who are close in age and in friendship, is described in ways which evoke the much written about Edwardian landscape of pre first world war England – except that we have a much more unchanged, less modern world, in Romania. The children grow, and Tinu, the young boy, finds ways of seeing, interpreting and communicating the world through drawings.
It is a fascinating book. The central character is wordless, and those around him find a strange freedom to share their thoughts because he cannot hear or speak them.
Although a huge narration is happening in the book – the large historical events, much of it a dreadful history, Harding does not dwell on the narrative – changes are experienced by snapshot images – she is a real adept at show-not-tell – for example, the couple in the city, and the relationship of fear and control set up by the Party machinery. She does not describe the interior landscape of her characters in dramatic language, there are these quiet pictures, postures, details, which reveal everything.She is a cool, unjudgemental, compassionate writer, with no self-indulgence, and her descriptions of the very texture and presence of trees, cups, paper, dust and the matter of things is powerful. Tinu, as child and man, really experiences the physicality of the world in a totally present, almost meditative way – and Harding makes the reader do the same