Thursday, June 09, 2005

Not very quenching: Catherine Taylor, Thirst (Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2005).

The one thing in favour of this book is that it isn't anything like as bad as I thought it might be.

The book starts in a walled village in a desert in which the protagonist and her aunt Stone are outsiders. Life is harsh and made harsher by a history which says there is nothing beyond the desert and the world is suffering for the impurities of the past world. Tales of pollution have been turned into ideas about moral transgressions and physical deformities.

Mara and her Aunt escape one night after a particularly savage round of self-accusation sessions and whippings. They find the sea and the injured aunt becomes a dolphin (I think, it might be a seal, it really isn't described well enough). Mara finds another group of people who nurse her and she discovers they have water and rain. She and a friend go back to the desert town where they are whipped, and convince about twenty people to come back to them. I found myself worrying how the town built on co-operation could absorb these people who lived in a world of distrust.

The book feels a bit pointless--very much a "there and back again"--and in that way I've come to recognise, Mara does very little herself but is passed hand to hand from adult to adult.

It's written in a passive present tense as well, just to make sure we all go to sleep,

What keeps it going is that Taylor has a sharp eye for the politics of small communities and the motives behind spite--she doesn't reduce the book to good v. evil. There is potential here, so I'll keep an eye out for her next book.


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