This seems like a good book to write about for All Soul's Day.
I have finally,at last, eventually, after weeks and weeks, finished surely one of the shortest books ever to take me so long to read.
The Short Day Dying by Peter Hobbs which I had kicked into touch some time ago and at Susan Hill's behest I have given it a second chance. The reason it took me so long is that to read more than about 10 pages at a time could certainly bring on a bout of exhausting and terminal melancholy.
Set here in the Tamar Valley in the 1870's, it is the personal account of Charles Wenmouth, a young Cornish blacksmith and Methodist Lay Preacher, enduring his very bleak dark night of the soul and the flickering and diminishing flame of his faith all set against a backdrop of abject rural poverty.All this in stark contrast to the warmth of the flame that keeps burning in the forge where he works himself half to death.
Oh heck, the poor man and yet it is perfectly possible to imagine this life and especially the weather when you actually live here.It's a little disconcerting to read a book entirely without punctuation beyond a full stop but I soon got the measure of the style, almost stream of consciousness and so immediate it was strangely compelling, but I could only manage small doses.
I agree with the reviewer who likens this pace to Wenmouth's relentless walking and thus forces you into his life, his mind and his dilemmas. Perhaps that's why I could only manage 10 pages at a time and then needed about a week's rest? There is something strangely oppressive but addictive about it that makes it such an unusual read.You just don't feel you can dump the chap after 50 pages, he needs you there in his friendless, thankless world to hear him out, you actually feel obliged to tramp alongside and see through the misery with him.Peter Hobbs somehow ensures that if you set off with Charles your conscience makes sure you stay with him.
I eventually had to agree it is beautiful and beguiling writing and the lack of punctuation cleverly allows for all manner of interpretation of Wenmouth's thoughts.However I do feel as if it's been a bit of an endurance test and I would recommend caution if you are prone to Literary Seasonal Affective Disorder.Expect a bad bout to kick in by page 20 and it was at this point first time around that I kicked the book into touch.So do yourself a favour and have the literary equivalent of St John's Wort on the go at the same time.
But I've read it and I'm glad I have, it was a very unusual reading experience.
Just to cheer us all up, I'll leave you with some gravestones but at least the sun's shining on the original 1832 Bible Christian Chapel we can see from home here in the Tamar Valley and now the village Methodist Chapel.Charles Wenmouth would certainly have recognised it.