Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Could've Been World for a Should've Been Sister

Chalcot Crescent's premise alone intrigues. Fay Weldon creates a life and a world for the sister she almost had; yes I had my own Atonement style flashbacks as well. Thankfully, Ms. Weldon took me far from such a premise and gave me a completely re-imagined and re-constituted world. I read this in a hot tub over my last two nights in Iceland while the other half slept off driving stick shift over glaciers (each of us enjoying time to do the things we don't get to as often stateside - sleep and reading) and the contrast between the mountains of Iceland and the bleak streets of Weldon's England fascinated.

It is enough to say that capitalism has not saved us from ourselves in Chalcot Crescent and the world as we know it today has fallen apart to be replaced with isolationism, fear, famine and destruction- fertile ground for dictatorial style governments.

Sounds like a fun read so far? Take that alternate twist and add in a heaping scoop of familial drama and soap opera like romances spanning three generations. Sometimes I stop keeping track of characters, especially when the authors insert them more to drive the plot and less to establish a character. This book does not allow for such passive reading. Yes, there are characters who never fully form except to either give birth to or father the children whose actions take over Ms. Weldon's (the almost-was) life. However, other characters come through more fully and their impact on the story and its direction is profound.

The character Ms. Weldon herself is a hoot. She's witty and smart and successful. She's curmudgeonly, unforgiving, petty and proud. She remembers absolutely everything and regrets more than she may let on. I wanted to sit with her, I wanted to shake her a few times and I was genuinely nervous for her too! Her interactions past and present may not always be what we as readers would have done (or maybe they're exactly what we did) and even though she may have her detractors, I think Ms. Weldon ends up with our respect if not our admiration.

Chalcot Crescent brings you in with its ingenious details about a world we may not be too far from and keeps you hooked with its human characters, their struggles and their fears. Thinking about my earlier post today and my thoughts on De Luca's anchor of justice in Carte Blance, Ms. Weldon (the author and the character I guess) too lives in a time of unrest, uncertainty and violence. Like De Luca, the character of Ms. Weldon makes her choices and pushes forward with her own anchor- family. That term may not mean the same thing or the same people at the end as it did in the beginning, but it definitely anchors this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend this as one to put on your lists!