Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Conrad’
The people who call this book racist are not really reading it, I think. It is by far one of the saddest, most enlightened, most profound and most beautiful books I have ever read.
The story opens near where I now live, in Gravesend, on the River Thames.
The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman lighthouse, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway—a great stir of lights going up and going down. And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars.
“And this also,” said Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.”
And it’s to Gravesend and England that the story returns after an unflinching examination of the complete and horrific disintegration of moral values once they are no longer anchored in the superficially civilising cities of Western Europe.
Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody moved for a time. “We have lost the first of the ebb,” said the Director, suddenly. I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.
The author is apparently making an effort with this story to explore her cultural heritage. I like that about it. The main character is a thirty-something Chinese woman who has so far failed to find romance, let alone love. Is there a hint of autobiography here? The story is set in Malaysia, which is intriguing, since the author claims to have been born in China. Perhaps she is trying to give the impression that she is widely-travelled.
The style is quite literary and not very modern. I suspect the author is either old or old-fashioned, possibly both. At times I could almost have been reading a story by Joseph Conrad or Somerset Maugham. Not bad influences to have, I suppose, if you can carry it off, though hardly contemporary.
You have to wait a long time for the sex scenes. This will probably condemn it to being largely unread. That would be a shame, since the sex scenes are really well done and, personally, I enjoyed the slow and atmospheric build up.
In fact I could have gone on reading for far longer. The ending was a little abrupt. I think there are the seeds of a novel here. I would like to read more from this promising writer. But is she young or old? Hard to tell. If she’s old she might not have much left in her.
I do hope she’s young and full of vigour. I’d like to read something really wild by her, with all caution thrown to the wind.