19 thoughts on “Mirrorland – Carole Johnstone

  1. One of this book’s two leading ‘epigraphs’ —
    ‘It always comes down to just two choices. Get busy living or get busy dying.’
    Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

    Stephen King
    — really struck me in the reflection within my own eyes, before starting to read the novel to which it is an epigraph!

  2. Maps, Prologue, Chapters 1 & 2

    ‘This is for the hallway door, but I usually leave it unlocked, and this is the night latch for the front door. There’s a deadlock too, but there’s only one key, so I’ll stop locking it.’

    Maps of the eponymous house, a possible HOUSE of leaves, and earlier leavings; returnings, now, a house regained, repurchased from or for childhood amid memories and named rooms from an imaginary or real world and hinterland to this present future of two twin sisters: Scottish sour-salt ambiance, one twin Cat returns — from America where she has been living — upon an SOS, for her sister El, from El’s husband Ross (Cat’s brother in law), and El in dire trouble at sea, apparently, missing, presumed dead, what a memorable Johnstone world all this is that has come back to haunt me and will do so again and again, repurchased. Confidence in an author is everything, detail perfect. Meticulous style, combined with aura of confident flair. That epigraph comes back to haunt this first part of the book, for me. No spoilers, unless a real-time reading’s unawareness allows one or two to slip through before they can be snatched back…
    Slowly, slowly, eke and savour.

  3. Chapter 3

    “Too many Els to count.”

    This chapter explicitly happened during the yesterday of my own real-time, I note, viz. April 3rd. But it feels as if I started the book today, instead, as I am, in simultaneous serendipity, reading and real-time reviewing ‘The Sot-Weed Factor’ (1960) alongside its newly discovered kindredness with the ‘house of Leaves’ (2000). Learning, in the former, a few days ago, much about twins in its truly momentous PANDECT OF GEMINOLOGY (meticulously and extensively reproduced in full here) and, today, reproduced here, about the shared dreams of twins including their childhood belief in the ‘Dreamer of the World’ and ‘the lions of Numidia’ — note, the mention of Narnia in this Johnstone chapter as if inadvertently or preternaturally aware of my reading habits today on April 4th. Meanwhile, this chapter is intensely captivating about El and Cat as ‘mirror twins’ in childhood and this recouped eponymous house in Scotland, and the world of stories it once contained, perhaps contains still, viz. the nature of their mother, grandfather et al. So, this Mirrorland HOUSE is promising to become a special book, uniquely unique and synergous at the same time! — as well as evolving a singularity of twins.

  4. Pingback: Numidia | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  5. Chapter 4

    “‘LA’s a long way from Leith. You mind me asking what prompted you to leave Scotland in the first place?’
    I shift forwards in my seat. ‘What does that – any of that – have to do with El going missing?’”

    The plot unfolds without spoilers as the well-characterised CID officers question and inform both ourselves as well as the narrator Cat and Ross. My own answers are necessarily silent with non-omniscience. Objective novel-craft while with disarming captivation, I am swept along, despite my attempts at eking the words out, by the magic of this whole scenario whereby, once upon a time, as children, there was not a Cat in El’s chance that one twin would let go of the other in a sort of out-staring game with holding-hands instead of eyes, in one of the named rooms of this same equally well-characterised House today, its time-lack of ownership having been leapfrogged …

  6. Chapter 5

    “…everything I’m seeing and feeling is only that old ghost and echo of me, of us.”

    Cat, as narrator, tells us she feels weary, as if broken through a deep cold lake, easier to forget this house when she was an ocean away. Yet there were good as well as bad memories connected with it. Meanwhile, amid Elizabeth Bowen’s apple trees and the house’s threads to room bells, I sense the pirate ship, and the Narnia from those days, a world Cat shared with El (the latter in charge by being 4 minutes older and still leading Cat?), a newly evoked fabricated world in a hidden passage and tradesmen’s entrance and washhouse, a PAlimpseST with today, a childhood construction of, inter alia, an island or Dream Archipelago, teepees, brigantines, Blackbeard or Bluebeard, a model of the ship where they sailed oceans away, and, amazingly, only yesterday I serendipitously posted (for the ongoing organic purpose of my Gestalt review of this out-of-print 1960 book) the whole of a chapter from The Sot-Weed Factor here:
    https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/a-chapter-from-the-sot-weed-factor-any-john-barth/, of pirate ships and dire happenings to women (be warned!). Serendipitous yet ominous, too? I wonder if this has any inadvertent or preternatural connection with my concurrent reading of Mirrorland. I will never know unless I read on, day by day, till I finish my own treasure hunt within it.

    “And some nights, we battled storms and other ships: naval frigates and merchant convoys, other pirate brigantines. Our ears would ring with the screams…”

  7. 322F4F0B-B4E2-4318-A3EA-125FA0EDF3E5CHAPTER 6

    Cat wakes from a co-vivid dream, an example of the type of dream many of us get today, but a dream here echoing those once co-shared with El, before such universal co-vividness ensued, I guess. Involving a bad pirate in the dream, as her Mum would have said.

    “As children, El and I also always shared the same dreams, the same nightmares.”

    And so waking Cat faces a new clue in her own treasure hunt, related to what I imagine this author’s Scottish fishing ambiance erstwhile embroiled, the backstory of her late Grandpa’s accident with “faulty trawl doors” …. to match my own faulty hawl (sic) ones? Hawling truths from between the doors of fiction, as I have long pretentiously called it.

    And Cat unsurprisingly meets people in the town who mistakenly at first think she is El. Ominous friends of El who seem to know more about the twins’ backstory than we do.

    Ross later claims El changed after Cat went to LA. Is there different El Paso in California, I gratuitously ask myself…

  8. Pingback: The New Co-Vividity | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  9. Chapter 7

    “Melancholy, old. Indulgent. Like rediscovering the door to Mirrorland. And all I want is for it to go away.”

    The PAlimpseST again. Those hide and seek games and Chief Red Cloud’s Teepee of yore, blended with today’s “hallway” and the HOUSE’s walls breathing in and out, as if echoing lungs…
    And Ross, yes, Ross, and his arrival during that childhood, the only boy amid a Just William-like set of girl outlaws, then what a sudden revelation by Cat as she somehow reveals something to us with a sudden access to an omniscience she didn’t seem to have before. A memory metaphorised, for me, by an earlier reference in this chapter to ‘walking the plank’, an act with which my above linked-to chapter from Barth ended.
    So whose clues are they Cat is receiving by email and old paper pages?

    “The house clanks and clunks and groans as if it’s a sleeping machine…”

  10. CHAPTER 8

    “Because everyone – everything – is terrified of something.”

    Today is 8th April in the book’s real-time, while it is 9th April in mine. Always a day late to seek out the hidden clues, having been given my own “black spot” as a reader, but lucky enough to be a day away, as opposed to Cat’s mere hour. I know why the twins fell out all those years ago, amid the cruelty of all the kids as emotional outlaws. But then how they sometimes cheated on the rules of the ‘game’ to be kind.

    “Every pirate code was in code.”

  11. CHAPTER 9

    “Blank masks, hidden faces.” And a ruined plague kiln.

    The firth, the harbour whence El set out upon her fateful voyage, brilliantly adumbrated by the words, yet, as well as a mirror land, a masked land, too, at heart, carrying many secrets as most homelands often do, I guess, as Cat meets by chance one of El’s artist friends, there — then Cat’s reticent or masked re-encounter with the police characters who promised to find El before the ‘practical’ aspects would take over in court proceedings regarding any missing person, presumed dead…Cat drops her mask slightly, though, with the police liaison officer….
    El, meanwhile, hated the colour yellow, Cat red, we learn. At least we learn it via Cat as the masked if essentially reliable narrator?

  12. This week, coincidentally, in a poetry discussion group I attend on-line, the poem chosen by someone was TO A WREATH OF SNOW by Emily Brontë. The background I learnt about this poem and the childhood of the Brontës seem so far helpfully resonant with this book!

  13. CHAPTER 10

    “Like she’s trying to reboot me, restore old files she imagines are deleted.”

    Re-book her, too, with the books they read. More and more mature books as they grow older under the guidance of their mother. But memories can die but never truly be forgotten, whither wherever we all wander away from them.
    We learn in this chapter more about the backstory of the cat in el regarding their mother and grandpa and themselves. Facts of the fiction that can never be exposed in a no-spoiler review such as this one, so I shall clam shut about the plot, and about Ross (and Vik’s view of him), and where El may now be situated, if anywhere at all. I shall just read this book for what it is, absorb it, maybe lace it with my own marginalia like the paper messages within the Dickens book and others. The Tale of Two Twins is only the half of it, I assume.

    “It takes Ross a while to remember where the plot is, but when he does, I feel suddenly nervous.”

  14. My reading of this book I have gradually realised should continue in private… one of those rare books that needs to be its own co-vivid conspiracy of those selected to read it as each reader joins not only its pirate King’s prison lockdown but also its big ship Satisfaction — the blending of time present with time past, and of childhood games that felt real with adult games that are real, or vice versa.

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