Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Sunday, 28 August 2005

"Rainforest" by Jenny Diski (Methuen, 1987)

The 1st 2 chapters were enough to make me want to read to the end. The tale flips between 2 timelines. One is a first-person tale of a domestic cleaner, post-nervous-breakdown, her friend having a breakdown while researching into chaos and quantum theory. The other is an earlier timeline when as a lecturer she sees a male colleague have an affair, leaving his wife for a well-stacked student. We learn about her dead father's more secret affair. During fieldwork in a rainforest she has a few hours of passion with womaniser Joe, then a breakdown. Doctors say she has a rigid personality. Her widowed mother, until then rather passive and helpless, gets a job and helps her daughter recover by providing practical help.

I like the psychological and physical descriptions. The theoretical discussions (thinly disguised as conversation) were more of a struggle. One of the themes of the book is how theory and practise should live together, whether indeterminacy should be isolated or integrated. At times for me the book was over-plotted. The orgasm using jungle imagery on p.155 takes some getting used to, though it fits the schema. The first-person description of the breakdown on p.172 tries to tie in themes too tidily - "She saw the external orderly world around her flying off, falling to pieces, disintegrating, and all the order she had always known the world to be threaten to break down, to become a meaningless mass of swirling particles. It was no metaphorical vision, this" - but it is.

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