Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Val and Val on Queen of the Tambourines

From Valerie S
I have just finished the above book and remember that you said that you
would like to discuss it. I found it intriguing and spent most of the time
trying to see where the twists were going to be. Eliza reminded me of the
Patricia Routledge 'Talking Head' who lands in prison for writing letters to
all and sundry. Also a very lonely woman. I found it difficult to really
decide her diagnosis from my limited knowledge. I did not think she was
simply depressed. She was a misfit in her environment and she had lost her
role, but her diplomatic travelling stopped when she was about 30, a time
when she would have been adaptable still. She had intellectuals as
neighbours with whom she had little in common and for quite a lot of the
book you could sympathise with her assessment of their peculiarities and
problems, Was it her or the neighbour's who were strange? The extent of
her fantasising was made clear at the end. However, was the baby in the
boat a fantasy or not? I need to re-read it to see if I have missed a
clue. If not,the book ends on a sinister note with a very disturbed
possibly psychotic person. From other reviews, it is assumed she recovers
to lead a more fulfilled life....but does she? If all returns to normal at
the end, I think that part is rather weak. The rest I enjoyed. I thought
the writing was vivid although the letters became an ordinary narrative due to the length of some of them, therefore, not too realistic.

From Val R
I enjoyed this so much because it was never totally clear to me if Eliza was 'mad' or not - and I think perhaps that is the point: who is to say what is mad, certainly not those who may be. In the earlier parts, I simply believed her and ignored the warning signs ( eg people constantly querying the second dog). But gradually there was too much evidence to ignore, so I began to doubt everything she had written, whether true or not. Again, isn't this how it must feel? The baby in the boat falls into this category - will we or she ever know if that was true? And you are absolutely right, it needs rereading, as I'm coming to believe all the better books do. Maybe I should factor that in now as I read anything. I can't remember the ending - I almost never can, which is interesting in itself - but will look at it again when I get it back. Thanks for reading it and responding. I've read several of Jane Gardham's now and think this is by far the best: the others all start with great characters and draw you in, but then become rather too pat with all loose ends securely tied, which spoils them for me. But you are welcome to borrow if you wish. And if anyone else wants Queen, they too are.

Re Pat Routledge/ A woman of letters: yes, a good comparison. I saw most of the talking heads with the original TV cast on stage, and think them some of the best theatre ever. PR is quite brilliant - do you remember A visit from Miss Protheroe (with Hugh Lloyd) and A woman of no importance - I saw that as well and it was so, so moving and so, so well acted. Why does she bother with that dreadful Hyacinth Bouquet rubbish when she has Alan Bennett writing for her. Money I suppose.