In a week when I happen to be reading and very much enjoying the new novel by Edward Docx, The Devil's Garden, which as well as some wonderfully Conradian Heart of Darkness themes also contains as its main character a myrmecologist (an ant expert...no I didn't know either) who seems to be, amongst others things, studying the sociological structure of the ant world (at least I think that's what's happening, don't quote me it is early days) who'd have thought there would be a tenuous link to the writing of Janet Frame.
Janet was also into the sociology of the ant world (who knows whether Edward Docx's research took him as far as Janet's book) and to round off Janet Frame week I wanted to share one more little book which I suspect is often less-talked about because it is considered to be for children, and indeed Mona Minim and the Smell of the Sun is a lovely children's read, (I have it in this exquisite little Bloomsbury Classics edition) and was dedicated by Janet to Pamela Gordon who has so kindly shared her memories of her aunt this week,
But this is a book that rightly deserves the adult readership I feel sure it has garnered too. I first read it several years ago and immediately realised this is about far more than a little ant who strays away from home and finds herself having to change to fit into her new surroundings.
It's a book about discovery and bravery in adversity, about fear and courage, about making your face fit where it may not usually do so, about the expectations of others, about being uncomfortable in new surroundings, about pretending to be something you are not and then about being true to yourself, about the constant search for something unknowable, dreaming and imagining, about close shaves, challenges, disappointments and happy moments, staying and leaving, celebrations and family, love, loyalty and friendship and doesn't that all seem so redolent of much that Pamela has shared about Janet this week.
It's also a book about home... and home is something I have been thinking about a great deal this week too in the context of Japan, the destruction of all those homes and a tragedy that sometimes feels overwhelming and leaves me feeling a little helpless... I mean just how on earth can anyone help.
Our Vocal Harem choir concert two weeks ago raised enough money for a Shelterbox and a bit for the Cornish-based charity and, knowing that Shelterbox are on the ground in Japan as well as many other countries around the world, I can think of no more practical cause in the face of disasters like this which leave so many people homeless. I can't even begin to imagine how I would cope given those circumstances, but I do know that if I had lost everything and someone gave me a box that contained the wherewithal to create a semblance of a home... and the box even contains a woodburning stove, then I think I would probably be grateful to the point of bended knee and tears.
In the end Mona determines that she has had enough of pretending to be something she is not, she will set off for home and she will do things 'her way'...
'Mona's thinking was morning-thinking and not the night-thinking that comes when you are tired and sick. She felt happy.'
I think Janet Frame knew exactly what she was writing about in this lovely little book.