Sometimes it’s nice to throw caution to the wind and just pick up a book completely at random from your shelves. Its one you have been meaning to read for quite some time your not sure whether you are going to like it or not but you just fancy giving it a whirl on a whim. This is what led me to reading ‘The Visitor’ by Maeve Brennan last week, and at only 80 pages long this seemed like quite an easy risk to take. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by a rather dark and harrowing tale of families and death.
I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone but when I go back to the area I grew up in I always have a huge bundle of nostalgia on arrival and so you sort of dream of going back and assuming everything would be the same, only of course it wouldn’t be would it? It’s this predicament that Anastacia King finds herself in ‘The Visitor’ when she returns to her grandmother’s house in Ireland, in which she grew up, after six years of living in Paris with her mother. Anastacia arrives in the hope of finding some family solace in her grandmother from recent events, only soon she comes to realise this will not be a long stay as her grandmother only wants this to be a visit and nothing more.
As the story unfolds we see snippets of Anastasia’s childhood, the fraught relationships between her mother and father and mother and grandmother, and soon learn as family secrets start to emerge from under the carpet just what grudges Anastasia has unwittingly had thrown upon her from her parents behaviour and how coming back brings everything to the fore. There is also a very sad tale of love lost that Brennan brings in with the only other visitor at the house Miss Kilbride, but I shall leave that one for you to discover.
Maeve Brennan weaves a heartbreaking tale (which is set around Christmas so if you haven’t read it that might be the perfect time) written in a completely melodrama free style. It could have been very easy to have scenes of high drama running throughout instead there are scenes where its what is not being said, or what is quietly being spoken, which give the book its emotional weight and that is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off I think. There is one outburst scene actually but it’s all the more powerful for the demure quietness of the book, despite all that’s going on, up to that point and the silence that follows is even more felt.
Written in the 1940’s this book was not long discovered and published swiftly. I have to admit that until I saw this book over a year ago in a charity shop for I had never heard of the author let alone the book, yet the cover and blurb (and possibly the fact it was 50p) drew me in and I am so pleased they did. I am definitely putting her other works on my Christmas list, they aren’t easy to get it seems, as any author that can do so much in so little words and pages is an author that I want to read much more of. 9/10
The ending did flummox me a little hence why this book didn’t get a full ten out of ten, if anyone has read this can you email me about the ending rather than comment as I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone else! I am wondering why someone like Persephone or Virago hasn’t picked these books up; I think they would be perfect for them and their readership. So who else has read ‘The Visitor’? Has anyone read anything else by Maeve Brennan?