My overall impression after reading this book was one of tarnish - a kind of dingy grubbiness. A feeling that nothing would ever shine out, bright and true and beautiful, because everything is seen through a lens of inevitable loss and disappointment.
I've looked back over what I've set down so far, and it seems inadequate. Perhaps there is too much frivolity in it, or too many things that might be taken for frivolity. A lot of clothes, the styles and colours outmoded now, shed butterflies' wings. A lot of dinners, not always very good ones. Breakfasts, picnics, ocean voyages, costume balls, newspapers, boating on the river. Such items do not assort very well with tragedy. But in life, a tragedy is not one long scream. It includes everything that led up to it. Hour after trivial hour, day after day, year after year, and then the sudden moment: the knife stab, the shell-burst, the plummet of a car from a bridge.The novel begins with the death of Laura, the narrator's sister, in the car crash mentioned above, and is told by the narrator towards the very end of her much longer life as she looks back and remembers the details leading up to the great tragedies in her life.
I did become quite fond of Iris as a narrator, and the story held my attention, but in many ways I couldn't wait for it to be over so I could move onto something less... wearisomely sepia, less wrapped up in the sense of decay. The story line is very clever, in its interweaving of narratives within narratives, and the ending is at the same time surprising and not surprising at all - kind of glimpsed through a dreary veil - the combined effect of the rheum of old age and the smudged deception of unrealised dreams.
I wonder which is preferable - to walk around all your life swollen up with your own secrets until you burst from the pressure of them, or to have them sucked out of you, every paragraph, every sentence, every word of them, so at the end you're depleted of all that was once as precious to you as hoarded gold, as close to you as your skin - everything that was of the deepest importance to you, everything that made you cringe and wish to conceal, everything that belonged to you alone - and must spend the rest of your days like an empty sack flapping in the wind, an empty sack branded with a bright flourescent label, so that everyone will know what sort of secrets used to be inside you.It was a relatively easy read and I am not sorry that I read it - but I won't be reaching for it again.