Saturday, September 19, 2009
'Jane' by PF Jeffery, Book 3, Lundin, Chapter 6
This final chapter of the first novel of 'Warriors of Love' begins with an Imperial ceremony for the end of the war, a ceremony that has ritual, pomp and circumstance effectively combining, for me, the atmospheres of 'Henry V' and 'Parsifal' ... but in feminine garb.
Then a gathering before the Empress 'in camera' where many of the novel's characters are present almost as suspects in a summing-up akin to an Agatha Christie novel. Or a Jacqui Blood fiction. Including various seemingly justified tongue-lashings from the Empress for some characters' behaviour. Beautifully done. In fact, I could have commented continuously at the beautiful prose descriptions and dialogual unfoldings chapter by chapter. Suffice to say it here, at the novel's end.
Furthermore, as this chapter itself says:
"This book is full of paradox, on a whole variety of levels. My narrative is essentially artificial. The real words of conversations are, of course, lost beyond recall. What people really said is gone forever, and yet – time after time – the essential spirit is here. Truth sprouts from artifice."
Nicola and Jane are to have daughters ... and more rosehip tea! Lovely 'ending' stuff. Has to be read.
Finally, I am left in two minds, a feeling that somehow is emblemised by these two separate passages from this chapter:
"As we walked, I had an increasing sense that we were in trouble, although I couldn't bring to mind our having done anything very wrong."
"As we rose, and Her Majesty departed, I tried to imagine Modesty and Lisa-Louise presented as the concubines the Empress required. Once a clear image formed in my mind, I attempted to banish it. My problem was not that the two women would fail to beguile. Rather, the picture of them as submissive playthings conflicted with my perception of them as strong women, warriors of love."
I look forward to reading the next novel in the series ('Margaret') and I will comment hopefully on it chapter by chapter but not before a month or two of percolation and me lying fallow.
Links to all my JANE chapter comments:
Posted at 10:41 am by Weirdmonger
October 7, 2009 12:36 PM PDT
Thank you for that!
I’m glad that the ceremony at the beginning of the chapter seems to have worked so well. I did wonder whether it would. I’m surprised, and rather intrigued, to find that you focus upon the ceremony itself, about which I harboured doubts as to the reader’s engagement. The material, in this context, that I expected to engage the reader was the account of the reactions of her new subjects to Her Majesty. (I have in mind the newly-enslaved Fuquibelle, whom one might expect to harbour no enthusiasm for the Empress. Also the cockney women from the Old Gate, whom Jane and Nicola encounter in the teashop.)
That said, your reactions please me. The ceremony was the result of careful thought (such ceremonies need planning). By contrast, the reaction of Her Majesty’s subjects (including Fuquibelle and the cockney women) came pretty well automatically. You focus upon what needed effort on my behalf, rather than what came easily. Perhaps it’s the ease with which came the reactions of Her Majesty’s subjects that impresses me. This feels like material almost composed without my intervention. It may be a form of self-deprecation that I value what seems to come from without me more than what obviously comes from inside me. There is something pleasant in having someone single out for praise a passage that feels like my own effort.
I know what you mean in comparing the summoning of the “Jane” ‘suspects’ to meet the Empress with an Agatha Christie novel. In my early teens, I was quite a fan of Ms Christie, and read a considerable number of her books. I no longer recall many of them very well (it was a long time ago!) but who knows what influence this early reading had on my work? That said, I think that gathering the suspects is more characteristic of Paul Temple stories than Agatha Christie’s work. (I am subject to correction on this point.) I have, in recent years, listened to some Paul Temple serials on BBC 7. They may or may not have influenced me, although I flatter myself that the gathering of ‘suspects’ in “Jane” is less artificial than the Paul Temple equivalents. But the gathering of suspects in the final instalment of a Paul Temple serial serves to resolve the plot, and the equivalent in the final chapter of “Jane” (in its way) serves the same function.
I think that the tongue lashings from the Empress are justified. At an earlier stage of my writing, I feel, these might have been more literal lashings. But keeping it verbal seems very effective. The Empress is more impressive as a figure knowing some restraint. She is someone one might both love and fear. Indeed, I do not now think that her rule could be well sustained purely through terror. (And the Empress herself says as much.)
The prose is my careful work, and I feel very pleased that you praise it. The detail of even the “automatic pilot” material requires careful polishing, and sometimes heavy revision. (Although, occasionally, passages of dialogue prove perfect as spontaneous composition, this is far from always the case.)
I’ve been thinking a lot, over the last 24 hours, about the material that seems to write itself versus the material that is the result of careful thought. “Margaret”, on which I’m currently working, is a huge expansion of the early chapters of my former novel “Odalisque”. As such, during the first ten chapters, the overall story line is carefully planned. The detail, by contrast, often wrote itself – but within the planned framework. It is the recognisably the same story, but with much more detail. There are occasional minor discrepancies between “Odalisque” and “Margaret”, and much that may make the reader wonder ‘why wasn’t that/she mentioned before?’…
But, now, that has changed. Going with the flow, allowing the novel to write itself, in Chapter 11 I come (for the first time) to a major departure from the “Odalisque” story. I wrote rather little yesterday, wondering whether I should give the new departure its head, or force the story back into its former course. After careful thought, I’ve decided to give the new departure its head. To do otherwise would be to retreat into contrivance and artificiality. I suppose my decision shows that, with regard to my fiction, I’m not a control freak. But this is big stuff which will substantially change the second half of “Margaret” and echo on into “The Warriors of Love” volumes 5, 8 and 11. It almost (but, I think, not quite) involves making changes to “Jane”.
October 7, 2009 02:43 PM PDT
Thanks for your fulsome responses to my comments, dear author.