Beyond the glitz and the hype of literary awards, the lists of authors they provide many of us readers can be a great means of new books and new styles for us to discover. The Scotiabank Giller Prize of 2015 introduced many of us to Anakana Schofield and her book Martin John (Link to my review). But her earlier book Malarky shows her keen imagination and wonderful writing style. And it deserves to be mentioned here.
Episode 1 – Page 7
-There’s no way round it, I’m finding it very hard to be a widow, I told Grief, the counsellor woman, that Tuesday morning.
-Are you missing your husband a great deal?
-Not especially. I miss the routine of his demands it’s true, but am plagued day and night with thoughts I’d rather be without.
-Are you afraid to be in the house alone?
-Indeed I am.
-And these thoughts, do they come when you are having problems falling asleep?
-No, I said, they are with me from the first sup of tea I take to this very minute, since three days after my husband was taken.
-Tell me about these thoughts?
-You sure you want to know?
-I’ve heard it all, she insisted, there is nothing you can say that will surprise me.
I disbelieving, asked again. You’re sure now?
-Men, I said. Naked men. At each other all the time, all day long. I can’t get it out of my head.
-Well now, she said and fell silent.
She had to have been asking the Almighty for help, until she finally admitted she could think of no explanation and her recommendation was to scrub the kitchen floor very vigorously and see would a bit of distraction help.
Schofield does a great job here of building empathy very slowly with the readers by releasing drips of thoughts, emotions and conversations of an nameless Irish mother. (Often referred to as “Our Woman”) We jump from sections of her life where we see her question the caliber of sincerity of her husband, dealing with her son’s sexuality and eventual signing on and deployment in the military, her own confused explorations of sexual encounters with other men and the passing of other people from her life. We gain insight to the fight of thoughts, desires and emotions against what is suppose to be a rigid and organized life of this woman.
Episode 10 Pages 110-111
Our Woman thinks back and commences. They lie against her couch and she talks into the space between them and the fireplace. Neither looks at the other as she soliloquizes and the fire handily cracks a bit to cover up the odd word.
Remember, she begins, I have had three children and so each birth was different. For starters they were all born in a different season and we’d different problems around the farm as each arrived. I delivered every one of them alone in a room except for a doctor or nurse who called in occasionally to ask how I was getting on and then took over at the end. In those days, your husband was not allowed in the room while you gave birth. When my son was born my husband did not know he’d arrived for two days because there was a lot of problems with a sick cow at the time and he was out day and night tending to it and I had gone to Castlebar and stayed there and word had been sent, but we’d no phone then and well you don’t want to know this. The worst birth was the first my eldest daughter, it was an indicator of what was to come for she’s a difficult and obstinate girl and pardon my vulgarity, but she has a very big head. I was offered a handful of blue and pink pills, which at first I refused, the seeing how awkward this creature was I requested they hand them to me again. They didn’t make a difference, but my waters, which had insisted on not breaking then dropped out of me and my distant memory of her birth is that my feet were as wet as a penguin’s.
Great, he’s still alive, she thinks.
– I can only say to you that it was an inhumane experience that I vowed so help me God I would never repeat as long as I was in the full control of my senses.
-You felt no joy? No election? he asks. You had no moment of completeness?
-I was stitched from my arse to my elbow. I was tired. I was resentful and I wanted to cut my own hands off.
-Then I had a cup of tea and six weeks later, I felt better.
This is one of those books whose every word needs to be savored. Schofield has given thought to the thoughts of “our woman” and carefully crafted them into this book. And in doing so she has given unique insight to the mind and the pains it endures.
Episode 15 – Page 154
When they came; I’d been expecting them. Knew how they’d look, knew I would know they’d come before they knocked on my door. And I did. the phone rang. Naturally the phone rang. The phone always rings. This is the problem with the phone. I nearly miss the days when we’d go two and a half miles to the pub and wait out the evening for the pay phone to ring for us, for someone to call out is so and so here: a call from England. And everyone would push out of the way and let you through in a hurry, all hoping the voice would still be there on the line for ya. And it was similar when they came to my door to tell me about Jimmy. I only hoped the miracle would be he was still there, but I had know for so much longer than they gave me credit for, that he was not.
Malarky by Anakana Schofield is a great piece of literature that should be savored, not rushed through in its reading. It provides great insights to the mind and thoughts of one person and gives readers fodder to consider their own situations in life.
Extracted from Malarky by Anakana Schofield © 2012 Anakana Schofield. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.