16 thoughts on “After Me Comes The Flood – Sarah Perry

  1. WEDNESDAY
    I
    Pages 1 – 11

    “…as if they were practising a signature. It’s a strange name and I know it though I can’t remember why: EADWACER, EADWACER, EADWACER.
    Underneath it I’ve written my own name down,…”

    I can’t remember an opening few pages which have drawn me so strongly into a novel, and a novel, it already seems, ideal for my personal tastes. Thanks to the kind friend who recommended it, well, gifted it, to me (they know who they are.)
    John Cole, whom I shall call a routine man, one who works in his snailshell bookshop, breaks down in his car and, like Aickman’s Maybury, ends up at a strange house. But perhaps there the similarity ends. They seem to be expecting him…
    A bit like a Brian Evenson or Samuel Beckett hero combined, adding a soupçon of Finnegans Wake (my three reviews linked), a so-called hero waking up, trying to fit together the Gestalt of his new situation and perhaps his identity itself…?

  2. Pages 11 – 23

    “The.table was covered with far more food than they could possibly have needed, on chipped platters showing blurred flowers like old stains,…”

    I feel I have been drawn into this book, as John Cole has been drawn into this scenario of place and people. I would do you a disservice to describe things in detail and the self-betrayal he eventually accomplishes so as to stay there for a while longer among such people, but why would he want to do so? Because it is entrancing for all of us, me included, I can’t wait to read the next bit but am determined to eke it out over a much longer period of real-time reviewing.
    But, meantime, I am not clear whether the infectious Mann’s Magic Mountain and/or Aickman’s Hospice ‘feel’ stems from an authorial ‘intentional fallacy’, or whether, in our own day, Maybury will bury May.

  3. II

    “Alex set a penny spinning on its edge; the fabric of his T-shirt moved in folds and the painted eyes shifted anxiously to the door.”

    I feel as If I am in the house, too, having heard its distant piano playing earlier. Threaded with its secret dramas to which I pretend to be privy. It’s as if the house has a hand of cards just as the three men, among the other house residents, whom John now meets together, do, too. But whose the trump card? Which the foreordained path is mine? Which side will the penny fall? A sense of God and Godlessness. A gestalt is slowly being formed between the place and the people I meet there.

    “; and if no-one’s watching, who’s to say what’s sane, and what isn’t?”

  4. THURSDAY
    I

    What now, he thought,…”

    John feels his way, not towards a ha-ha in the garden so much as the lip of a pent-up reservoir (for a forthcoming Powysian Flood?), as all the characters whom he meets also seem pent-up, so pent-up they can’t hear birdsong, or there is no birdsong to hear? Might have started in the city, not in the countryside, I guess, this silence. John knows somehow he must confess to the man whose place he has inadvertently taken in this house party or is impersonating, a confession not by writing this novel about himself in the third person singular, but writing the other rightful man a personal letter. They write letters, you see, in this book, although a mobile phone was mentioned earlier, I recall. Write letters, and give household objects inscrutable airings outside. Even one of John’s books from his bookshop turns up, unless it is a different copy? The nature of the piano and its playing by one of the characters make me think I am, too, a copy of the reader reading about it, someone other than myself, or do I induce myself to think that for the sake of stating it for this real-time review?

    “The strings came untied easily, as if it had been recently opened and they’d lost the habit of their knot.”

  5. II, III & IV

    “…he wished the arms of the chair would draw him in until he seeped into the wood.
    ‘So easily done,’ said the other man, benevolently. ‘Wide is the gate, and broad is the way…'”

    The more I gather of the sometimes vague backstories of the people, the place and its reservoir, the more I feel I have been given the chance of entering this book itself at the optimum momentary time of my life, a time when I have already sensed a slippage in myself… something building a crack somewhere that I need to find before it grows beyond the whole’s integrity, whatever is buried beneath such integrity.
    I also sense a permeating feminal aura, a different point of view creating things around me, different to my own re-creating vantage point as ‘valve tower’ or Dreamcatcher, myself alongside John, feeling an aura where self- and body-worth are questioned as part of some process entailing the act of our, yes, all we readers, being chosen to be here in the first place.

  6. FRIDAY

    “He found the sight of his own bare arm peculiarly unsettling, noticing for the first time how the dark hairs clustered at the bones of his wrists.”

    So, John is not me after all?
    Hester casts her sewing-net, though, as I cast my own dreamcatcher upon the people and events in this novel.
    And a new invasive force, a short woman, visits briefly. And although this is a not a stream of consciousness novel in itself — like Finnegans Wake, or Omensetter’s Luck that I happen to be reviewing at that link simultaneously (about a preacher like but unlike Elijah) — Clare seems to talk in this section to John in a stream of consciousness!

  7. SATURDAY

    “…we all saw at once how to touch could be worse than to hurt.”

    …just as a smirk could be seen to be worse than anything else that was feared to have happened.
    This chapter, for me, is a very telling moment in literature, one of those not easily forgotten, a visit by some of the house residents, including John as John and then as first person narrator, to the curlews and sea lavender and crucial tides of salt marshes, a sort of Eastern England scenario with which I am very familiar, and here it is spot on. Spot on, too, are the events that transpire, an occasion I somehow saw as a sort of ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ outing, except the headmistress went, too. At one moment shapeless, the next differently shaped, according to her mood or the mood of the observer. And the aftermath, inscrutable, too. Eventually an outing that needs viewpoints or coordinates to triangulate as the Hanging Rock Picnic did elsewhere in a mathematical conflux of otherwise raw and misunderstood emotions. But who or what went missing?

  8. SUNDAY
    I

    “…but instead developed headaches and fits of breathless anxiety in car parks and long dull parties, and spent her wages on a man who cleansed her spleen through the soles of her small high-arched feet.”

    I know the feeling, with my having the male version of such. This book, too, takes on an (inwardly constructive?) increased desultoriness, as we switch between points of view and places, i.e. the intriguing backstory of ‘preacher’ Elijah’s previous St. Jude’s versionary site of Maybury’s Hospice or Mann’s Magic Mountain sanatorium (or retreat) and the circumstances of the project’s own desultory financial (etc.) attrition and its ‘childish’ patterns of piano music, and the unexplained comings and goings of visitors, now transposed to the house near the reservoir, where we listen to conversations in the glasshouse, and worry about whether Alex actually ‘touched’ during the trip yesterday to the salt marshes. That ‘touch’ now magnified by the thought of the cactus and the synaesthesia of feeling cracks in the pavement via treading upon them and “each ridge and groove in the whorl of his fingertips?”

  9. II, III & IV

    “The world ending because its Maker has decided it’s high time is one thing. It collapsing without purpose or meaning is quite another.”

    That dichotomy, in hindsight, is central to the patterns sought by my gestalt reveal-time reviewing since I started it in 2008, a sort of religion of Preternaturalism. Just like discovering a reassuring phrase in the Bible repeated 365 times (for every day of the year), and I hope my own erstwhile Leap Year syndrome will at least be cured by reading this book! One about ‘reassembling’ as a way of reassuring.
    Meanwhile, John beats himself up for being a Peeping Tom, and later prevents Alex from beating himself up about reassembling a moth.
    Many interpersonal tensions and misunderstood subtleties are reassembled during our communal Sunday together with all these characters … by reading this book, setting store by picking it up again hopefully tomorrow.

  10. (Monday)

    MONDAY
    I

    “…’after a while our troubles are the only things we have that never change and we wouldn’t lose them, even if we could.'”

    It seems strange how serendipitously connective my labyrinth of gestalt real-time book reviews has become over the years. Increasingly so. I happen to be simultaneously reviewing here an anthology of stories all of which feature mysterious letters and mis-delivered missives and mis-directed or anonymous packages etc,, and here in this book, such items have become more and more significant, with culmination in this section.
    The interaction between the characters builds and builds with addictive nuances, and I feel the shape and substance of the Hester character by dint of her body and mind is a major literary figure to cherish, to dally or conjure with, until this embryo becomes full-fledged within the collective consciousness.
    A book not only of reassembling but here in this chapter ‘dissembling’ – and resembling?
    In this section, an overt reference to David Hume, and three less overt ones to John Milton and Shakespeare (Hamlet and Macbeth).
    Boiling glue and a papier mâché mask…

  11. (Still Monday)

    MONDAY
    II & III

    “I’ll go on trying to write this down, though I’m all in the dark, a character at someone else’s mercy. Sometimes I imagine Tolstoy sitting at his desk with his notebooks […] always knowing what was coming next.”

    Ever since entering this house, I think of the characters’ nuances (including my own) in terms of the cadences from the pervasive piano played by Eve. Objective-correlative or native drum? I wonder if Hester’s forthcoming birthday tomorrow is a story of a John Cowper Powys type finale, a sort of epochal pageant? Probably much lower-key.
    And there transpires a night’s manoeuvres, mistaken identities of visitor, a possible duet earlier but now asexual ‘touching’ equivalent to the power of ‘touch’ touched upon before in this book. Such manoeuvres remind me of those night ones in Maybury’s Hospice and Castorp’s sanatorium. Except the Eadwacer tale of an island reminds me not of Earwicker (HCE) in Finnegans Wake but the climax of a Ishiguro.

  12. (Tuesday)

    TUESDAY

    “On the surface of the rising reservoir, the water moved in eddies as though just beneath large fish waited patiently,…,”

    Is it a Tench? John Cowper Powys’s crucial question (perhaps the most important question in all literature) in the Flood-presaged, Grail-Golgotha, pageant-ended ‘Glastonbury Romance’. Here a birthday party, without candles on the cake, set amid an encroaching storm, after a letter was buried like the buried giant, then other papers were scattered to the wind.
    “…aprés-moi, le déluge.” A translation of this book’s title? Or a reference to Louis XV? Or, tellingly, the motto of the RAF Dambusters? But after all, it was not ‘moi’, but ‘nous’, wasn’t it? And we are all responsible for this book, because we are all in it. Sorry to judge you by me, but did you notice that Alex is referred to as ‘boy’ towards the end, that boy from the salt marshes? Was that you?
    Too many cadences, too many nuances, to be able to tell you what happens in this still-resonating book. Forever resonating, perhaps. A bit like piano music. If Debussy, was it le faune or la cathédrale? Or a bit of both?
    I now leave the book as well as the house, along with John. But what comes after us?

    end

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