Sunday, July 11, 2010

Margaret (2)

MARGARET by PF Jeffery

My realtime review continued from HERE

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Chapter 6
"In which I am entranced by a magician's assistant, go shopping and celebrate Solstice." (italics in original).
I thought I would mention at this stage that each chapter begins with this type of brief introduction exemplified above, charmingly reminding me of Victorian novels or, say, 'Tom Jones' by Henry Fielding.
It would be cheating to quote this opening introduction as part of my review for every chapter, but, indeed, in this chapter, there is much action wonderfully described and 'dialogued' pertaining to the events described above.
I am pleased to see the expression 'curtain lecture' used in this chapter as I think I first brought this to the author's attention many many years ago as meaning a wife's scolding of her husband.
I also note, in this chapter, by the use of the word 'jealousy', that our heroine already shows susceptibility to Surrenity. I thought it was only in our current times that, exposed to various media, children are forced to grow up quicker than they should.
Another enticingly written chapter about towards we know not what destiny we and feisty Margaret tread. (11 Jul 10)

Chapter 7
"Entranced, I said: 'Miss Fletcher, don't you wish that this moment could last forever?'
'In its way, it will, Margaret. Even when you're a very old lady, you'll be able to look back on this moment - and it will always be there, waiting for you to return.' "
A chapter, indeed, where we grow more accustomed to Margaret's narrative perspective from the future, as she re-witnesses, as it were, emotions she didn't originally understand in full, particularly those concerning the serial corporal punishment at the hands of Miss Lace under whose governess-ship she has now been placed following friction with her mother relating to the Solstice presents. Meanwhile, an earlier aside from this chapter: "House slaves often know more about matters, both domestic and of the wider world, than do most persons." And Margaret encounters snow in the season's month of Chillflurry. (12 Jul 10)

Chapter 8
" '...But make no mistake, Jenna is a dangerous enemy. Essex is at war with Surrey, and won't win.' "
Years tumble through the combine harvester of fiction narration (my image not the book's), as Margaret grows nearer to wedding alliances within the dynastic business of this novel; she meets short-haired Jenna (a relative) but things always change: loved ones leave, loyalties change or wither, and a star takes off its socks for the last time. And a slave called Inqui is given to Margaret. Like life on the outside of this novel, its kaleidoscope is mixed, unpredictable, and poignant, with bodily and emotional changes - positive and negative as a two-way filter. And this chapter effectively continues to convey all this within the ever-strengthening 'world' that is delivered by the words. (14 Jul 10)

Chapter 9
" 'Your interests, Margaret, wll be those of husbands and sons. Titles descend through the male line - except in Surrey.'
'Is that what the wickedness is all about, mother?' "
A chapter of the 'politics' of this book: male/female, slave/person, marriage, ways of procreation, how a thing looks rather than is, farewells, respective feelings vis a vis spankings by males on females and females on females... as Margaret prepares to go to Lundin to meet her intended.
" 'Margaret, we live in real life, not in a story book.' "
I tore a page from the book so I knew where I had finished reading it. After eating sandwiches with piquant pickle (not marmite).
" 'Kingdoms can be rocked by ambiguity.' " (16 Jul 10)

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Chapter 10

" 'And make it the best you have,' Inqui added. 'My mistress is a princess of the Blood Victoria - and will, in time, be crowned as a queen.' "

Journeying to Lundin, Inqui, Margaret's personal slave, is both a source of advice to her mistress - and a preservation of her virginity in a vivid scene where a certain male predator becomes dispensable for the common good. We also learn there are two sides to a soup spoon, one of which is for polite society. We also learn of clothes that seem to render their wearer more naked than before donning them. The entry to Lundin is brilliantly described, such scenes of smell and sight being a great strength of PFJ's writing. (17 Jul 10)

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Chapter 11

"Inqui disengaged from me to allow Fliti to go to work with a small pair of scissors, before smoothing my nails with the file. First, she placed a sheet of paper under my left hand to catch the clippings. It was the act of a slave who might be required to sweep up afterwards - and, when she was done, Fliti shook the parings into the fire. To me, this seemed a rite of passage, something that would demonstrate my Surrenity as surely as a brand is the mark of slavery."

Inqui and Margaret reach the Palace Victoria - a building that reminds me of Gormenghast. Talk of cleaning the sewers leading up to the place and giving our heroine a second slave, both to impress her intended husband when he arrives. This book reminds me of a blend of Mervyn Peake, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Henry Fielding, Jack Vance, 'Fanny Hill' and certain forms of SF/ fantasy including what I understand 'steampunk' to be - but, far above all this, it is unique, it is PF Jeffery, and you can only distil this for yourself as you read it. (19 Jul 10)

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Chapter 12

"Stepping with Jenna, I traversed one side of the triangle that comprised my known routes through the Palace Victoria labyrinth. The three corners between which I was able to navigate were my apartments, Mrs Clay's stitch rooms and the dining hall. Having now been in Lundin for almost three weeks, my local knowledge remained unimpressive. Inqui, most certainly knew the passages and stairways much better than I did."

I feel similar to above about the Warriors of Love novels (of which 'Margaret' is one) when theoretically compared to a new reader I can imagine who may already know his or her way better than me, desipte me having read at least three previous versions (over 20 odd years) of the story being told in 'Margaret'. The cascade of characters, for example, some only scantily described, if at all. I do recall, for example, that Lisa-Louise (mentioned briefly in this chapter) becomes an important character later in the envisaged novels and I've heard from the author in the last few days that Fliti is a new character, here in this latest and 'final' version, who is due to become important later in the novels. This chapter concerns many running themes, male-bonding within Margaret's father's caricatural brand of sexism, Margaret's own growing sense of a competing sexism and female-bonding, the ethos of bondlings / slaves / persons / Royal lineage, sado/masochistic tendencies arising from the earlier corporal punishment, Solstice celebrations (all wonderfully described), the background of politics or war or rebel-rousting (some of which delay Jenna's and Margaret's as yet unmet fianc├ęs' arrival at the Palace Victoria)... (20 Jul 10)


This DFL real-time review now continues HERE.

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