Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson

If there were an official lesbian canon of literature (and I don't know that there isn't), Jeannette Winterson would be at the top of the list. Her writing just has that sort of air to it. I remember reading her Oranges Aren't the Only Fruit when I was first considering becoming a lesbian; the narrative seemed to me experimental in an intelligent, Faulkner (whose The Sound and the Fury I am struggling with now) sort of way. Really, I felt I could barely grasp it. I should probably give it a second reading.

Anyway, on toward the matter at hand, which is Jeanette's novel Lighthousekeeping. You wouldn't be surprised to hear that it is about a lighthouse, but also, and really, it is about the inhabitants of that lighthouse, an old man and a young girl. This novel is written in the same intelligent voice as the other that I described in the above paragraph. I'll have to study on exactly how she creates this voice, because it could probably do a lot of good if I applied it to some of my own writing.

The little girl in the novel is immediately, or almost-immediately abandoned by her mother, then passed along to a stern woman (a librarian or something, I can't remember, I've been hoarding/procrastinating book reviews for months now - I'm visiting my mom, which means I have some time off and am not sitting in a house I have to clean, so while mom's at work I'm finally doing this), who then passes her off to the old man in the lighthouse. The old man is a typical old man in that his wife has died (I think he was married, I think that's what happened) and now he needs someone to take care of him. He is blind, doesn't have any source of light in, oddly enough, the lighthouse, and the little girl (also her little dog, must adhere to this sort of situation.

The novel does go back and forth betwixt two (or more?) generations, and it gets confusing. The jist and focus of the novel is a) the relationship between the little girl and the old man and b) the little girl's coming-of-age.

There is also a poignant point made about the (negative) effect "progress," (or abandonment of tradition) has upon individual lives - as a result of man-free, mechanic lighthouses, the little girl is ultimately abandoned by the old man and, finally, must abandon the lighthouse.

As you can see, abandonment is a major theme (even of the subplot, which I will leave to you to read without my description here).

This is a good novel that will make you, due to Winterson's knack for it, feel like a very high-caliber reader - a suggested read. - 4 stars

p.s. - The quote for my blog comes from this novel - just an example of the sort of profound statements you can read from Winterson.


Mel u said...

I read and posted about The Power Book by Winterson not too long ago-a beautifully written book-I look foward to reading more of her work.

Julie said...

I do think the quote on your blog from this book is quite thought-provoking. I love quotes!