11 thoughts on “Albion Fay by Mark Morris

  1. “I am all out of insight, all out of comfort. I feel as though I have dwindled to nothing. In a way I am surprised she is able to see me at all.”

    One needs insight, I say, to know if one is in or out of insight – and that brilliant insight itself from within the first two sections of this text has started me off reading it on a promising note, learning from the tuggingly limpid prose about this 48 year old bachelor male narrator, as thoughts sweep in on him at the funeral of his sister, confessions to us about the nature of his sexuality and current teaching career status – and the box of albums he has been expecting (dreading?), including a photo his sister and himself as children, a box waiting for him at home.

    I do not intend to itemise the plot from this point following that brief setting in my own words, possibly rather gauche or awry on my part, compared to the text’s adeptly engaging quality. No plot spoilers, merely my reaction as I continue in the future savouring my reading of it. I, too, knew a certain room in my childhood house as a front room…

    “My gran called it a living room and Mum called it a lounge, but to me this has always been the front room.”

  2. Third section

    “Next to the house, behind it and to the right of it as we look, is what appears to be a huge cliff face blotched with areas of blackness, which are clearly tunnels and caves.”

    I am absolutely entranced by the family’s difficult journey towards arrival for a holiday at the house called Albion Fay, and by its ambiance perfectly, simply conveyed. The narrator as his ten year old self, his sister, and his battling parents, including an overlapping backstory of that childhood and his Dad’s encouragement for him to fight his battles against bullies at school.
    But I am particularly struck by those cave entrances near the house, about which, for me, there is no point in shouting ‘shut those doors’ at all!

  3. 4th & 5th sections

    “I only know she is smiling because the shadows around her mouth change shape.”

    A strikingly effective comparison between a specific childhood gathering of your bearings through the gradual waking process caused by someone, at the dead of night, entering your bedroom through the crack of the slowly opening door and, much later in full-waking life, your own entering of an as yet unexplored cave … with all the lighting effects involved in such a comparison.
    A comparison hauntingly middled by the human contact of your twin sister and yourself, innocence mixed with half-resistant closeness and knowingness, and the half loved, half loathed shadows with which can be peopled our waking adventure story of a certain yearned for world.

  4. 6th & 7th sections

    “Angie turned her clothes inside-out, do you remember?”

    Frank, the Narrator is back in his 10 year old self’s backstory’s future (I hesitate to called it the ‘present’), forward to when he is 48 years old again, visiting his senile mother in a carehome and then a pub meeting with Angie his socially downtrodden, skinny sister and her new roll-up smoking beau. Both these scenes are economically, yet stylistically, evoked, poignant and distressing.
    I said I would ‘savour’ this work, and that turns out to be the right word for experiencing the inferred depths of this deceptively simple narrative.

  5. Eighth section

    Back in the midst of the children’s story (in more ways than one), I have now a sense of Mum being an astute fully alive Mum, also Angie, Frank’s sister, in telling contrast to the future glimpses we have earlier received of both of them.
    The two children are allowed to go off to another area near Albion Fay, reminding me positively of children’s adventures I used to read in the 1950s. But books are changelings, people, too, I guess. So is their latest adventure towards the tall chimney… But I love the nice touches that give me a warm contrastive glow of nostalgia, like the dock leaves as a cure for a nettle sting, Mum’s pink marigold gloves and this… “We hear birds singing and bees going ‘zzzzz’, which reminds me of the sound people make in The Beano when they’re asleep.”
    But, meanwhile, I, too, wonder what happened to the little girl Angie in the caves. And that makes me think of a famous novel in literature by EM Forster, also, tellingly, with much wondering about what happened in the caves – happened to a woman who entered them….
    EM Forster also wrote a novel called Where Angels Fear To Tread….and yet another novel, one with a house’s name as its title….
    Only connect.

  6. 9th & 10th sections

    “In fact, the longer I stare at the caves the more I imagine…”

    Imagine or actually see? A text replete with unchecked glimpses makes me think again of the doorless caves that would have Larry Grayson pointlessly shouting about shutting them…
    Frank and Angie’s parents become more ‘fractured’ as a backdrop to the clinging magnetism of the caves for Angie.
    There is a subtle indication that dreaming about something needed doing can result, apparently, in that thing being done in real life.
    A very British (Albion) children’s book growing up into adulthood, as is the book Frank reads in his hammock within this book, and perhaps what he glimpses are us readers reading about him.
    Fay as a word is effectively a glimpse of the word Fairy…

  7. Eleventh section

    “The zoo is full of friendly-looking cartoon animals and it makes funny noises…”

    We are allowed a slice of Frank again emerging into his backstory’s future, and now it is the BarBQ held by his sister Angie and her husband Chris, a scenario conveyed by its touches of the socially grim side of this sort of occasion’s Britishness and I personally find this image of the gathering, one that I recognise vividly, even more frightening for me than my perception of the caves and what they seem to mean to Frank. That’s not to diminish the haunting memory of the caves, but to acknowledge the horror of the BarBQ and its guests as they look at Frank upon his arrival with a present for his one year old niece Aspen…
    This scenario also artfully radiates (almost retrocausally) towards this book’s backstory as the main thrust and gives glimpses of matters that help build up my picture of the past as something always more important than the present.

  8. 12th, 13th & 14th sections

    “Are you really you?”

    That striking question from Frank to Angie seems, in hindsight, to be a question more and more on my mind these days. Especially with other things changing that I never really dreamed possible. It is as if there was a visit to an equivalent of the Albion Fay caves years ago but no longer remembering it…
    There are now further timelines, back, front, and middle emerging that make the progressive pattern or thread of events in this work continue to make comparison with each other…
    The marital violence between Frank’s parents, his Mum’s approaching the earlier carehome scenario from a more distant past than that we encountered before … and Angie’s mental health… Fears and tribulations. And another crack of light from the landing is encountered in one of these new timelines

  9. 15th & 16th sections

    “‘But how do you know?’
    Her eyes are glassy. ‘I just do.'”

    This book gives you that feeling, too. Simple but uncanny.
    Like something I referenced earlier. As if the events themselves when turned inside out will mean something different – later, if not now.
    Savouring something means being patient. But I now read page-turningly “…like someone convalescing from a long illness who has tried to do too much too soon.”
    Better too soon, though, than never, I say.
    The father’s brutality due to be transcended through the book’s words turned inside out. Better out of the cave than in.

  10. 17th, 18th & 19th sections

    “She did it out of love.”

    Not in love, but out.
    But love all the same as cursor. Love for Chris, Aspen and India. One catharsis.
    Another catharsis of this book is a compromised refuge.
    I cannot convey the force of these without pre-empting their brutality or otherwise,

    A memorable book. But you can’t judge whether anything is permanently memorable until you have forgotten it.

    The concept of “nostalgic dread” – a new concept for me, a concept used by the actual book, one that sums itself up brilliantly but without clarifying its oxymoron of open-endedness. The British Fairy of yore.

    It feels as if I have returned to read this book that I know in my heart of hearts that I have never read before, reopening its rooms after years of having first entered them during some forgotten childhood.

    If Frank returns to Albion Fay after many years, the garden gate will be open, the front door ajar, the caves… “Shadows proliferate, blackness seeping from the cave openings. Or perhaps it is the other way round; perhaps the rock face is camouflaging its apertures by concealing them within shadows of its own.”

    Each reader must find their own generation game and which of its doors stay shut, which may open.


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