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Sunday, August 09, 2009
'Jane' by PF Jeffery (Book 1, Modesty's Camp, Chapter 1)

"Modesty Clay and I were lovers, although I never really knew her."

That's how JANE by PF Jeffery begins.

This seems to be a world with an unashamedly loving Sapphic ethos. Where 'Goddess' is conscientiously addressed rather than 'God' and there is reference to 'blasphemous chapels' from the past that seems to relate to Christianity.

I cannot stress this enough – the style is pure and limpid and evocative, and perfect. A striking 'genius loci' and atmosphere that only reading it will give you. The only phrase that brought me to a halt was "
While the Empire depends on we who keep tally..." but I'm not sure how to improve it.  No perceived typos.

Jane Brewster is a form of Civil Servant, I gather, sent to audit the accounts of the army under Modesty Clay, involved in an intangible war. She also finds herself auditing Modesty's eyes!  And she compares the bravery needed by the girl warriors and her own seemingly useless task of accountancy. 

The main characters are emerging beautifully so far in my mind, but I wonder if there may be too many names in this first chapter for a reader like me to cope with. Only time will tell, how this pans out.  But I have confidence in the head-lease author who has given birth to Jane, the I-protagonist.

I just draw out one passage from many beautiful passages I could have chosen from this chapter:

"The mounted figures exerted a fascination – it was hard to look away for more than a few seconds at a stretch.  Although they were obviously riding towards us, for a surprisingly long time their apparent size failed to increase.  Then, it seemed suddenly, the horses and young women were much larger, closer."

It reminded me, too, of a scene from the film 'Lawrence of Arabia'.


"It's better to be killed than never to live."


Links to all my JANE chapter comments:


Posted at 07:42 am by Weirdmonger

PF Jeffery
August 9, 2009   07:51 AM PDT
Thank you.
One small correction. You write: “…that as ‘Odalisque’ is being revised, I understand, and will form one of these twelve novels” In fact, a revised and expanded ‘Odalisque’ is intended to form four of the twelve “Warriors of Love” novels (volumes 2, 5, 8 and 11). Of these, volume 2 is to be entitled ‘Margaret’ and volume 5 ‘Tuerqui’. The titles for volumes 8 and 11 have yet to be determined.
I agree that “While the Empire depends on we who keep tally...” is a rather angular clause. It seems that Jane is here (unusually) being at least a little pompous. There were a number of similar turns of phrase, but the others were (I think and hope) all replaced by more rounded wordage. Having given this a little thought, I have changed “we” to “us”. With that small change it reads much better:
“While the Empire depends on us who keep tally...”
This seems both less pompous and better grammar.
I agree that there are rather a lot of named characters in the first chapter. It is my hope that this reflects something of the bewilderment of a first day in a new school. (Or in this case in an army camp, but it comes down to the same thing.) Quite a few of those mentioned don’t actually appear in this chapter – notably Jane’s work colleagues. This reflects Jane’s home sickness – pondering familiar people. I hope, too, that when these characters actually appear, they will seem (at least slightly) familiar to the reader. Also, their mention here may make Jane seem more rooted in the city of Berenice from which she has come.
By contrast (if I recall correctly) Chapter 2 is a lot quieter in this regard – concerned largely with Jane’s interactions with just three people.


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