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How To Be Both

by Ali Smith

Let this book take you by the hand - don't resist or berate it for being something different . Keep an open mind and a generous heart and you will be rewarded. I found it hugely moving yet joyful, even though sad things happen. Inventive, strange - and both stories resonated in unexpected ways. A special mention must go to teenage George - bereaved but coping with enormous maturity. Her voice rang so true as did her relationship with her mum.

Extract

... when my mother was gone into the ground, and me still small enough to, one day I climbed into her clothes trunk in her bedroom and pulled the lid down: it was all broadcloth and linens and hemp and wool, belts and laces, the chemise, the work gowns, the overgrown, the kirtle and sleeves and everything empty of her still smelling of her.
Over time the smell of her faded, or my knowing of it lessened.
But in the dark of the trunk I was expert and could tell almost as well as if I was seeing which was which, which dress, which usage, by the feel of it between finger and thumb: kitchen use, Sunday use, work use: I went deep in the smell and became myself nothing but fabric that'd once been next to her skin: in the dark between the layers I shoved down or up with a fist and felt for a tapering strip, a ribbon or tie or lace coming off the edge of one of the sleeves or collars, a tassel, a strand of whatever, and was awake till I'd twisted and wound something of her round a thumb or a finger: at which point I was able to sleep ...

Parallels

Baltasar & Blimunda by Jose Saramago
 

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