Monday, 20 February 2012

Marital incompatibility

I am reading Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg at the moment. It is the tale of a woman who goes with her husband (a Scottish presbyterian minister) to live in St Kilda's, Britain's most remote island. Set in the 1830s it tells a tale of primitive living in a bleak place. In contrast, my husband is reading Spud - Learning to Fly by John van de Ruit, the third book in the Spud series. It was my Valentine's gift to him: given we both loved the first two books it was a fairly safe bet.

The other evening we were lying in bed reading our respective novels. I was contemplating what life must have been like for this poor woman, on a cold bleak island in the middle of nowhere (quite literally). What would it look like: the crags, the scrubby grassland, the lack of trees?

*chortle, chortle*
My husband is enjoying his book.

I return to the isolation of the minister's wife. She can't speak a word of Gaelic. Why doesn't her husband try to teach her a few simple words to let her communicate with the natives? Surely she would be more content if she had others to talk to; someone other than her husband, who is solely focussed on his mission to save the islanders' souls?

*chuckle, laugh*
I give my husband a look. He straightens his face and returns to reading.

My heroine is pregnant... and now she chooses to go for a walk up the hill. Her husband doesn't think this is safe. Can he be right? I read on, anticipating the worst. She slips, she falls, she...

*raucous guffaw*
The bed shakes with my husband's laughter. "Sorry," he says, but can't hold the laughter in as he returns to his book.

For me, I read of inevitable loss, of the husband taking control in a tragic situation, of him naming and disposing of the baby before she wakes up. I read of the woman's meek submission to her husband's will.

*more laughter*

I give up reading. Sometimes you have to recognise you aren't going to win.

(I'll let you know how good the book is if I am ever given the space to finish it!)


cheshire wife said...

It is not often that husband and I read the same sort of books.

I have to say that your book does not really sound like bedtime reading. I think that that book would keep me awake.

Catharine Withenay said...

I hope you enjoy the review I am posting. It wasn't that bad, really ... the problem was the contrast with my husband's!

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