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Sunday, August 09, 2009
'Jane' by PF Jeffery (Book 1, Modesty's Camp, Chapter 2)

Nobody is ever in stasis. We have caught Jane Brewster at the beginning of this novel, it seems, in a sort of early-life crisis, her insecurities, her position as accountant and now, it also seems, to help with dealing with the injuries of war, her growing self-awareness of body and mind, her protocol in negotiating the people she meets, their interaction by dialogue and glance, e.g. with Modesty Clay, the army surgeon (Jill), the horse groom (Jenny) .... the initiation of sexual encounter, whisky, rain, the smell of horses and latrines, the margins of the camp, dangers .... all mixed with homely nostalgia of her childhood, her family – then brief references to more notable features and figures of the times (present and past) like someone called Nadine Next, and a city called Berenice....

It all makes a strange, slowly focussing sense (aided by the easy flow of language), and, also, here, the many characters of the first chapter diminish to just a few in this chapter, which aids this process. I feel I still have much to learn and absorb as I start what promises to be a massive journey into 'The Warriors of Love' (a phrase that has its first mention in this chapter).

Some passages below I enjoyed and/or which also give a clue to the plot's flow:

"The wind, abruptly changing direction, sprayed rain through the flaps – only just in time, I shifted the ledger away from the wet.  An especially violent gust all but ripped the tent from its moorings.  The pole, to which a lamp was attached, jerked – setting the shadows dancing.  Columns of figures, on which I was attempting to concentrate, seemed to shift in time with the flickering shade.  It was impossible to work in these conditions.  With a sigh, I laid the account books aside."

"'She said the arrow hurt more coming out than going in.'"

"'...But, Jane, you haven't had the hard experiences yet – the ones that put wrinkles in your soul.  It's not just the skin that ages.'

'But,' I said, 'if I understand you rightly, it's that wrinkling of your souls that makes you so wonderful.  I haven't lived yet.'

'Don't be in too much hurry, to have your soul wrinkled, Jane Brewster,' Modesty said.  'Try to be happy with who you are.  There's something in your youth and inexperience that's at least as wonderful as our aging.  Once that's gone, you'll never have it again.  Enjoy it while you can.'"

"'Just be the person you are.  And all of the people you'll become.'"

"On the other hand, how could I not – at least – try to do it?  Suppose, a few days later, I audited a payment to a dead girl's family – knowing that I might, perhaps, have saved her?  And what else would I do as the casualties returned to the camp?  Sit in this tent, examining columns of figures, whilst I listened to the cries of injured soldiers?  The idea of assisting the surgeon appalled me – but the alternative was worse."

Links to all my JANE chapter comments:

Posted at 07:46 am by Weirdmonger

PF Jeffery
August 9, 2009   07:52 AM PDT
Thank you for that. … Interesting that the phrase “Warriors of Love” first surfaces in this Chapter 2. It is a curious coincidence (and perhaps no more) that Chapter 2 of Volume 2 (a chapter I’ve just completed) first mentions the “Warriors of Love” in a different sense from that found in “Jane”. The introduction, perhaps, a prehistory for the Warriors of Love. … I suppose that Jane’s “early life crisis” had to do with being plunged into an unfamiliar situation, in which she knows none of the people. She is, after all, only sixteen. In the second chapter, she’s settled a little. … This is rather a quiet chapter, before things grow very busy in Chapter 3.

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