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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Sunday 23 December 2007

Penned in an old-fashioned style

My dear readers,

"Lest it be said that Angela Carter's The Magic Toyshop turned my spirit into joyous cartwheels with its fluid beauty and intricately rich expressions, with which to form a delicate grace, I was somewhat disappointed that the author's brilliance would allow a careless end; namely too many open-ended conclusions, loosely bound and abandoned to the imagination.

One is left disillusioned if not a little stunned, by the premature retreat of character and plot even as one marvels at Carter's command over the purity of language.

It was with this puzzlement that I soon found myself in Chapters on Parnell Street, ready to be seduced by a new story in the true festive spirit of the season.

Dropping temperatures threatened to freeze the tender skin but decorative city lights soothed and smiled and caressed the creased frowns of subdued shoppers as frantic families complete with prams, babies and balloons, struggled to stay congenial in merry old Dublin.

Couples kissed on street corners and children demanding dolls, toys, books and a fascinating amount of lollies, geared for a bright red stocking, threw furious tantrums at dangerous street-crossings. There was no Santa to appease the weary mum, only an army of youths with empty pails, collecting coins for the homeless. A large tent had been gaily set up outside the Post Office on O'Connell Street as if to prove a point. Here a group of boys with tired feet, slouched spiritedly and with relief, while recounting their bashful efforts.

Not to be outdone for a noisy celebration, little Christmas markets sprouted up from nowhere and behind Middle Abbey Street, close to Debenham's, one would soon be astounded by an assortment of delightful tinsel, feather boas, scents, christmas wrapping, santa hats, candy and toffees amongst many others..

The winter solistice had just fled and a host of people in the darkening evening sky bumped into each other with an efficient precision at clumsiness if there could be such a contradiction; their arms laden with gifts, fat meat joints and thick puddings. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, pardon, excuse me, and so on and so on..." were the phrases of the day.

At the independent bookshop, I with many others were lured by rushing piano keys that lulled its way into a wistful classical tune. Dazed, I was drawn to the section on historical biographies, cinema and art instantly making a decision to alert and educate my simple mind to a wider reading journey.

So celebratory were my resolutions I wanted to do a waltz. And what more than a romantic classical period...a slice of intimate European history if I would so dare.

I settled for Rembrandt's Whore , written by French actress and writer, Sylvie Matton whose husband had filmed the tragic artist's life. Matton's efforts were translated into English by Tamsin Black. Shunned and judged by the hypocrisy of a puritanical township over the artist's decision to keep a common-law wife while his own, Saskia had long died Rembrandt was also besieged with financial woe.

The higher tragic consequence alighted from the misfortune that Rembrandt was sued by a former jealous servant over a breach of promise for marriage which Rembrandt so sadly denied. The quiet thinker and brave demonstrative lover was a placid kind soul not given to slapping matches and shouting scenes.

This dutch courage - aptly put since Rembrandt would turn to gin and beer - subjected the artist to a scandal from which his painting commissions would suffer a complete loss and his dutch mistress Hendrickje, subjected to a terrifying abuse of snobbery from the Christian townsfolk.

How taunting the ending...how unbearably sad for the real-life characters at play and yet because the plot was sketched masterfully by Matton, there was no finger-pointing at any hint of melodrama.

Sadness spun from the beauty of art and love, lingered throughout the book but would reach its torrent only on the last page; unexpectedly and frighteningly so.

True love, pleaded and narrated by the voice of the mistress employs such tut-tut matter-of-fact tones and this arrayed with a philosophical wisdom, one could only feel that here was love explored in a brand-new fasshion once more as it had never been explored before.

I finished the 200-page book in one sitting and so reached my point of contentment as to the experimentation of new reads that promise to fare me well."

faithfully yours,
suzan abrams

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