Paperback reviews: Out Of Time, Night, The Girl Who Walked On Air, The Lie Of You, Pedro Paramo

 

Out Of Time By Lynne Segal (Verso £9.99)

A combination of memoir, politics, literary criticism and feminism, this book explores what it’s like to grow old. Segal’s primary task is myth-busting. On the one hand, there is the story that ageing is just horrible, an ambush of losses and indignities awaiting us all – a story told by writers such as Philip Larkin, Martin Amis, and Philip Roth. Segal acknowledges that this myth has its truths; but it’s not the whole story. The alternative myth, advanced by such writers as Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem, is that ageing is not to be feared but welcomed, that old age is a time of wisdom, and liberation from sexuality. And this myth has its truths too, but omits the realities of loneliness, frailty and cognitive deterioration. It’s worth noting that the pessimistic myth tends to be peddled more by men, and the optimistic myth more by women – and this despite the probability that old age bears more harshly on women than on men in our society. But Segal isn’t in the business of point-scoring: her message is for both women and men, and it is that old age contains both pleasures and perils, and we’d better come to terms with that (like we have a choice!). She is quite rightly polemical about ageism and the disrespectful way old people are treated and referred to, and quotes with approval writers such as Simone de Beauvoir, Julian Barnes and John Berger, who write of the elderly neither with horror nor false cheeriness, but with affection and respect. A thought-provoking book that equips the reader to travel a little more gently towards that good night.

****

Night By Edna O’brien (Faber & Faber £8.99)

A reprint of O’Brien’s 1972 novel, at 148 pages this is a slim work, but it punches above its weight. Mary Hooligan is lying in bed while house-sitting and unable to sleep. She passes the time by reminiscing about her childhood in rural Ireland, her mother’s funeral, her marriage, her son, her friendships, and her many love affairs. The story meanders along without any clear chronology, but the sense of a personality and a life shine through – it’s anarchic, good-hearted, and alive to the textures and sensations of human experience. And bawdy: at one point Mary suggests that a “quim diviner” would be a good idea, so men could tell if a woman was sexually attracted to them or not, and she also speculates about where vaginal transudate comes from, and when a woman is not sexually excited, where does it go? The style is extravagant, full of unexpected turns of phrase and a totally off-the-leash vocabulary. Obviously it owes something to Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in Ulysses, but has its own distinctive voice.

****

The Girl Who Walked On Air By Emma Carroll (Faber & Faber £6.99)

A pleasantly readable story for 9-11 year-olds, The Girl Who Walked on Air recounts the adventures of young Louie Reynolds, circus-worker and self-taught funambulist. She yearns to be a top-of-the-bill showstopper, but the circus-owner won’t let her; then, one day, a rival circus man, the mysterious Mr Wellbeloved, offers her the chance of a trip to America – and Niagara Falls .... It draws heavily on stock ingredients of the genre – the orphaned protagonist, the beloved pet dog, the scenes of unfair treatment, well-worn tropes such as “taking the stairs two at a time” – and the plotting is on the predictable side. But it’s engaging and entertaining. You certainly know who to cheer and who to boo, and what’s wrong with that?

***

The Lie Of You By Jane Lythell (Head Of Zeus £7.99)

The Lie of You is a creepy psychological thriller, narrated by two women: Kathy, editor of a prestigious architectural magazine, and Heja, a journalist on Kathy’s staff who was once a TV star in Finland. Kathy has a taciturn Finnish husband and a one-year-old son, Peter; Heja has an unhealthy stalking habit. Heja’s brooding, devious narrative is genuinely unsettling, and the novel inexorably builds to a jangling climax. The plotting is: a) unpredictable; and b) plausible and character-driven – not an easy trick to pull off. My only real reservation is that the character of Peter is under-drawn – obviously infants do not have such rich psychological histories as adults, but they are still people and deserve individuation.

****

Pedro Paramo By Juan Rulfo (Serpent’s Tail £8.99)

Rulfo’s 1955 novel is considered a masterpiece of Mexican literature. A young man, Juan Preciado, comes to the town of Comala in search of his father, Pedro Paramo. But Comala is literally a ghost town – the houses are all empty, but the voices of the dead are everywhere. The narrative shuttles between Preciado’s viewpoint and those of the dead souls, and gradually we learn more of Pedro, who once ruled the town as a kind of feudal overlord, and the ancient passions and crimes that the unquiet dead still whisper about. A weird, unsettling story – in his foreword, Gabriel Garcia Marquez said that when he first encountered the novel: “That night I couldn’t sleep until I had read it twice,” and one can see why.

*****

Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Blackberry Wine, wrote a blog post attacking the app and questioning its apparent 'strong Christian bias'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Leading light: Sharma in London

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
News
Brooke Magnanti believes her reputation has been damaged by the claim
books
Arts and Entertainment
A large fire has broken out in London's historic Battersea Arts Centre
art
Arts and Entertainment
Orla Brady as Anne Meredith, MyAnna Buring as Elizabeth Quinn and Joanna Vanderham as Katherine McVitie in Banished
tvReview: Despite the gritty setting, this drama is as fluffy and soppy as a soap opera
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and co-director Richard Glatzer, standing, on the set during the filming of ‘Still Alice’ in New York
film
Arts and Entertainment
Great British Sewing Bee finalist Matt Chapple
tvReview: He wowed the judges with an avant garde dress
Arts and Entertainment
Driven to the edge: 'Top Gear' producer Oisin Tymon is said to have had a row with Clarkson
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nazi officer Matthias Schoenaerts embarks on an affair with married French woman Michelle Williams in 'Suite Francaise'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Prime movers: Caitriona Balfe (centre) and the cast of Outlander
TV
News
Feasting with panthers: Keynes
books
Arts and Entertainment
Strung out: Mumford & Sons
music
Arts and Entertainment
Avant-garde: Bjork
music
Arts and Entertainment
Despite a decade of reform, prosecutions and convictions of rape has remained consistently low
arts + entsAcademic and author Joanna Bourke in warning to arts world
Arts and Entertainment
Electro Velvet, made up of Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas, will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May