Wednesday, 20 January 2010


I've just finished reading The Winter Vault, the second novel by Anne Michaels. Her first, Fugitive Pieces, is my favourite book (and I don't say that lightly; I read a lot, I've given it a lot of thought, and I'm yet to find anything I've loved as much).

An interview with the author, from the Guardian, is here.
"- At the cemetery, said Jean, nearby to Elisabeth's grave
was the grave of another child. There someone had left a magnificent garden of
plastic flowers. Ferns grew lush out of a thick square of florists' foam, and in
the foliage stood two painted china dogs. Each plastic flower had been carefully
chosen; roses, hyacinths, tulips, lily of the valley. There was love in each
moulded crevice of leaves and petals.

I remember when I was young looking at plastic flowers
in a shop. I heard someone say, 'They're not real' and I couldn't understand
what they meant - I was holding one in my hand, of course they were

The child's garden rested on its thick green foam
above the cold spring ground. It was as real as anything. A child would have
thought that garden beautiful.

Everything that has been made from love is

Anne Michaels:

What am I trying to say in The Winter Vault? Among other things, that it is not enough not to do harm; one must also do good. That regret and shame are not the end of the story; they are its middle.

This plastic garden, near the end of the book, represents a kind of redemption; a coming to terms with much that has been discussed; a laying to rest. Any consolation is hard won; the redemption is of a very subtle nature. But I would not publish anything that did not have, at its heart, what I feel to be an unassailable argument for hope.

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