Madeleine is Sleeping

This is a highly unusual novel, and I write about it with mixed feelings – it’s one of those books you are entranced by whilst reading, but repelled by afterwards. I was drawn to it by the cover, as I usually am – I think it’s a Lewis Carroll photograph?

I’m not sure what I can say about this book. Firstly, it is extremely experimental. The structure is definitely unconventional; it’s split into short half-page long vignettes, all weaving around the central character, Madeline, a girl who basically slumbers, and dreams. As Madeline dreams, all sorts of bizarre events take place – a neighbour starts sprouts wings, another woman morphs into a violin …  I suppose it’s a sort of literary surrealism; parts of it are very Dali-esque (yes, because that is a perfectly legit word).

I don’t know if I would recommend it; I didn’t like it much. The prose is interesting, the structure is interesting, the story is interesting – beneath the metaphysical and the intangible aspects of the plot, the author does explore darker, deeper themes – but I’m not sure if Bynum was able to pull it off. It was just a bit pretentious, in my opinion.

Oh, and just one more. I’ve been trying to read more Australian books, because in school, the majority prescribed texts we study are American. I don’t know much about Australian literature beyond the likes of Bryce Courtenay and Tim Winton, and it seems sort of unpatriotic, in a way. So I’ve stacked up some Australian books on my shelf – The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser, Breath and Cloudstreet by Tim Winton and The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard.

I’m halfway through The Lost Dog (it’s delicious so far) and I just finished A Life by Design: the art and lives of Florence Broadhurst by Siobhan O’Brien It’s written rather like an extremely long feature article from Vogue Living but I don’t think of it as a bad thing at all. It rather suits her lifestyle, after all. It’s a fascinating book, regardless of the writing style. Well, not so much a fascinating book, but a fascinating life. I’d never heard of this woman before, although I’ve seen much of her designs around – Broadhurst was a famous Australian fabric designer, although she did all sorts in her earlier days.. lots of glamour; cabaret in Shanghai, and those sorts of things. And of course, she died big as well: brutally murdered in her studio, at such an old age too. I can’t imagine who would want to do such a horrendous thing, and neither can the police, I suppose. As far as I know, the case still hasn’t been solved.


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