Book info

An Imaginative Experience (2007)

An Imaginative Experience (2007)
Author
Rating
3.75 of 5 Votes: 4
ISBN
0099499096 (ISBN13: 9780099499091)
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English
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publisher
vintage
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An Imaginative Experience (2007)
An Imaginative Experience (2007)

About book: Well, the first thing to say is that although the novel begins with a couple of deaths off page as it were which could have meant it was going to be another of the direly morose books my Poole bookclub appears to choose, this one managed to veer away from blood, gore, horror, despair and suicide which so many of them appear to champion and sank down into a relatively predictable amble through the woodlands of coincidence, romance, misunderstanding and satisfactory overall resolution in favour of good taste and simple happy endings.It stopped off at little glades in the woodland to experience a bit of racism, some harmless but awkward stereotyping, some rather bizarre and racy intimacy between people too closely related for it to be 'proper' and then burst forth into the fresh Laura Ashley like freedom of summer meadows and upper middle class self satisfaction.The plot is Julia Piper coming to terms with the death of her estranged husband and son, the vicious immorality of her horrendous mother, the opening out of her heart to friendship and then on into intimacy with an equally damaged Sylvester Wykes. His damage comes from the brutality of his callous ex-wife and the fussiness of a former secretary turned stalker. That is all the story is really but it is easy, amusing and she paints a good picture.I have read quite a number of Wesley's books and they are easy, predictable and amusing. I am always amazed that she didn't get her first novel published until she was 70 or something because they are fun, witty and full of OTT characters and I am always surpised that they were not recognized as such before.Her stories revolve around the same type of characters as Iris Murdoch....they all have names like Sylvester and Hamish and Giles, Julia, Christie or, and this is the character that appears in some way in all of her novels, Calypso. They all have jobs like artists, sculptors, writers and booksellers. But whilst Murdoch addresses all sorts of deep and profound 'stuff' and rams deep dialogue and philosophical reflection down your throat, Wesley's characters just cross and counter cross, chink glassses and plant flowers, have sex and fall in love.The novels are easy to read and fairly easy to forget but the one clever thing about them is she always has a hook that you will recall from the story and thus you never quite forget even if your recall is a tad hazy. Here it is the opening scene of the sheep on its back in the field the significance of which plays and replays and deepens and fleshes out the overall tragedy but ultimately joyous life of Julia Piper.

I'm particularly intrigued by Ms Wesley's characters crossing social classes. This is the second of her books that had a woman leave her proper social place to accept work as a menial. Ms Wesley reflects the attitudes of the era in some of her characters who believe it would be better to starve than to step down in social rank just to secure work. Julia escaped her situation by becoming a house keeper and befriending other social misfits like the Patels her local shopkeeping friends. Julia's tolerance and moral center form the eye all the other characters swirl about but only Sylvester sees. This story was briefer with almost the feel of a snapshot into the lives of her characters. A tale of a brief period unlike other of Ms Wesley's I've read. Those covered many years of a character's life to create a plot while this delved briefly into a few intersecting lives with the impact of a short story. I could even empathize with the moments of snobbery and other antisocial activities because no one was utterly bad, mostly immature, acting on rumor. A few were so selfish they were utterly thoughtless about others but they were still portrayed as full, if disagreeable, characters. Unpleasant, not evil, as are most hurtful interactions, they were people depicted by an author with sensibility and understanding. The various view points and opinions of the characters, opinions often based on little or conflicting information, were well interwoven between the events to create an involved and personal plot. It is as Sylvester comments a series of connections and chance meetings.Of particular interest to me was the inclusion of garden as retreat for spiritual rejuvenation that Julia creates for herself. Ms Wesley used the church twice but the garden was the recurrent place of personal reclaimation. Despite all life's woes an afternoon in the garden does reinstate a sense of proportion.The church is clearly not an undivided edifice. One was open armed and welcoming but another was exclusive, sending Julia out when she sought shelter and sanctuary but brought her dog.
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Reviews
Wayne
This is an entertaining lightweight piece.But if you are as close to death as I am ...DON'T!!!Read it, that is!!!Colette said that when young you could afford to waste time on a love affair. But when one grew older, it was necessary to make decisions about such things far more quickly and send the intrusion on their way quicksmart.I extend this philosophy to characters/books also.The heroine who began by being eccentric and interesting and becomes more so...murderous, difficult, thoughtless, but even then unconvincingly so, is soon stripped of all this and we are left with just the typical colourless always-in-stock featureless goody-two-shoes.Makes Lady Macbeth look positively positive. And Becky Sharpe emminently desirable.Julia has been revealed to us through the jaundiced eyes of her mother and her mother's close friend. So the eccentric beginning becomes a bit of a sham and the novel, as the intriguing layers evaporate, just another syrupy romance with a case of mutually mistaken identity to be resolved before the lovers can fall into bed, which the very last words assure us will happen on the next page.It is blank of course.Perhaps it is blank, cosy, safe books like this which made the Booker Prize so deadly dull before the Indian writers came along.(In this book the Indian characters only get to run the corner store and a corner of the novel.)At least we know that there was some point to all that British Empire stuff. The coloureds have revived Shakespearean ideals.All Coloureds, PLEASE ADVANCE TO CENTRE STAGE!!!
Catherine
Picked up as part of my avoiding something a little further down my reading list (I'll leave anyone who is interested enough to research that one) and devoured in one go because it was, as anticipated, so easy to read.A grieving Julia stops a train to rescue a sheep thus unwittingly incurring the sympathy of Sylvester and, as a consequence of that, the animosity of Maurice. The subsequent entangling of their lives and revelations of Julia's troubled past lead to the inevitable happy ending in a story that, while hardly deep and sometimes predictable, remains entertaining annd (just about) credible.
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