Well, tomorrow is my very last day of exams. Just my luck that it should comprise of examining two of my most hated textbooks. One, I wrote about it before, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, the other, Towards Another Summer by Janet Frame. English Literature, the bane of my college life.
I was told by my teacher that Towards Another Summer is a highly autobiographical novel of Frame. Hence, the instructions were that the book can only be published after her death as Frame cannot bear the thoughts of criticism. As with The God of Small Things, I have to admit that I do not like the story and style much. Again, no offense to Frame’s fans, it is just not my cup of tea.
The story talks about Grace Cleave, an awkward writer who doesn’t seem to know how to interact with people. Haunted by childhood trauma and the terrible experience of being put into an asylum even though she wasn’t mad, Grace Cleave felt as though she is a bird, migratory bird whom the humans cannot understand. Her childhood was riddled with moves all over New Zealand as her father was a railway worker. This is apparently the reason why she felt as though she is a migratory bird, always looking towards another summer since she had been moving all over the place since young.
Unfortunately for her, at that time, female writers were not well received. Add to the fact that she had once been sent to the asylum, people discouraged her from writing, saying that she should sell hats for a living. Horrible, insensitive people.
Grace Cleave’s strength and weakness both lie in her sensitivity. She was, as her name suggested, cleaved between her safe, inner world and the demanding outside world. People do not really understand her and she shrank into her inner world, apprehensive and fearful. However, she seemed to wish to at least show a semblance of normality and wish for companionship. This was shown when she accepted Phillip Thirkettle’s invitation to a weekend visit in Relham with his family.
Grace tries so hard that it isn’t even funny, it is heartrendingly pitiful. What in the whole wide world happens to her to cause her such loss of confidence? My teacher suggested the stay in the asylum and the mutterings of the people after she was released but I disagree. Although the asylum was terrible as with the gossip pf the society, she is now a writer of some success. Shouldn’t that boosts her confidence? No, I think the reason lay much deeper in her history.
I think the reason lies in her frequent moves during her childhood. Most of us have found ourselves thrust into a new crowd suddenly with little warning due to one or another reason. It is disconcerting and lonely at first until you get the chance to make a few friends. The problem is, it takes time, which I don’t think a young Grace had, what with her father moving around once every while.
Grace Cleave is truly a child within an adult’s body, as suggested by several websites. She looked at things with innocence rarely found in grownups.
Although the novella is hauntingly serene, I could not bring myself to like it, not the least of Grace’s character.