Tag Archives: suicide

#BookReview ‘Jumping the Queue’ by Mary Wesley #contemporary

Jumping the Queue is a must-read for fans of Mary Wesley’s writing. It is a slim volume about a deadly serious topic. Widow Matilda Poliport prepares to commit suicide. She cleans the house, organises her papers, destroys anything incriminating and gives away her pets. On the day she judges the tide to be favourable, she makes a picnic and takes a bottle of wine to the beach. She plans to wade into the sea and drown. What happens changes the course of Matilda’s death, and life. Mary Wesley
This is a quirky mixture of a book with heavy topics which, as you get older, become more familiar and understandable, with dark humour and a touch of forbidden romance. There is also betrayal, all kinds of betrayal actually – between husband and wife, between parents and children, between friends. As Matilda contemplates suicide, she thinks, ‘I am the great betrayer… That is my sin. I am not a sticker. I betray from laziness, fear and lack of interest.’
The story is told from Matilda’s point of view, at times despairing, at times wickedly funny and lusty. It’s hard to believe Jumping the Queue was Mary Wesley’s first adult novel, published in 1983 when she was seventy; its topics are as pertinent today, as then.
Matilda and her husband Tom made a pact, to end it all when they were old and no longer enjoying life. But when Tom dies suddenly in Paris, Matilda is left alone in an isolated West Country house, rarely visited by her four children. The villagers pretty much leave her alone except for her neighbour Mr Jones, who carries a not-so-secret torch for Matilda. But not everything is as it seems. What was Tom really doing in Paris, why don’t the children visit, and does Mr Jones really see UFOs?
When Matilda’s plan at the beach is interrupted by a group of holidaymakers, she retreats to the town to wait. There she meets The Matricide, a man on-the-run, wanted for killing his mother and whose face is in all the newspapers. Matilda is anything but conventional and she doesn’t fear for her safety. The Matricide, whose name is Hugh Warner, checks she understands who he is and that he killed his mother. ‘Of course’, says Matilda. ‘Lots of people long to. You just did it.’
At first glance, this could be a depressing novel about getting older and longing to be out of it. But in fact it is a tale of loyalty, love and trust; just in unexpected places. Thought provoking, sad and uplifting, all at the same

Here’s my review of THE CAMOMILE LAWN, also by Wesley, or read its #FirstPara.

If you like this, try:-
Whistle in the Dark’ by Emma Healey
The Hoarder’ by Jess Kidd
‘The Carer’ by Deborah Moggach

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Book review: All My Puny Sorrows

Miriam ToewsThis is a novel about depression, suicide, death, broken families, love and music. Yes, it is sad, but it is also laugh-out-loud in places. Canadian writer Miriam Toews drew heavily on her own experiences in the writing of All My Puny Sorrows, and that depth of empathy shines from every page. Do not ignore this book because you think it will be depressing: it is uplifting, and you will feel sad to finish it.

The story centres on sisters Yolandi and Elfrieda von Riesen. Elf, the elder, is a concert pianist. Yoli writes the Rodeo Rhonda teen novels. Elf’s story – and that of the family of women surrounding the two sisters, their mother, their aunt, Yoli’s daughter, their friends – is told by Yoli. “When we were kids she would occasionally let me be her page-turner for the fast pieces that she hadn’t memorized. Page turning is a particular art. I had to be just ahead of her in the music and move like a snake when I turned the page so there was no crinkling and no sticking and no thwapping. Her words.”

We do not hear Elf’s inner voice except in excerpts from letters and poems. What we do have is Yoli’s contemplation of Elf’s request to be taken to Switzerland to end her own life. No judgements are made although Yoli runs through every gamut of emotion from sorrow to guilt to anger to exasperation to despair. She loves her sister and does not want to lose her, but if her sister is so unhappy then how can she not help her? Is Elf’s wish not hugely selfish, does she not care for the feelings of those she will leave behind? Anyone who has been close to someone with a long-term illness will recognise many of the healthcare situations and Yoli’s many meltdowns with medical authority.

It is a sad, poignant book which made me laugh out loud.

All My Puny Sorrows was shortlisted for The Folio Prize 2015 and I totally understand why.

Click here to listen to this Writers Trust of Canada interview with Miriam Toews about All My Puny Sorrows.

If you like ‘All My Puny Sorrows’, try these other Canadian authors:-
‘The Bear’ by Claire Cameron
‘Etta and Otto and Russell and James’ by Emma Hooper
Anything by Margaret Atwood

‘All My Puny Sorrows’ by Miriam Toews [UK: Faber and Faber] Buy now

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