Sorrow and Bliss #2, Meg Mason


October 2022

I’d like to do more re-reading. It’s been on my mind. In my life, I’ve only re-read a few books - Anna Karenina and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I think I’ve read three times each, and each time has been entirely different and brilliant. In addition, school and university texts such as Great Expectations, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Pride and Prejudice - well worn classics, all of which I loved. But given the limited time for reading in our lives, the time for re-reading is even more contracted.

I hear people talk of books they’ve read ‘hundreds’ of times. Or books they re-read during certain seasons or holidays. This tends to make me think of people who say they’ve made certain recipes ‘hundreds’ of times. How, if they are not feeding people for a living? How have they held enough dinners to feed people different versions of Nigel or Nigella’s chicken pie so many times, while also cooking other things? It makes me feel inadequate, stuck in the low numbers when it comes to reading or cooking, not turning out or churning through at great speed.

Re-reading falls into the same category of reading as the deep dives into authors I’d like to take, but so far I’ve been reading Rachel Cusk for two years and still haven’t finished. This is the category of reading holidays and regular escapes, trips which would necessitate I travel far from everyone and everything. Just the sort of trip that if I was given, I would have to devote it to work, to writing, to something more productive than reading.

And yet, in my soul - for my soul - I haven’t yet found anything much more productive than reading. It shocks and soothes me, wakes me up and gives me life. It can let me down, and frequently does, but will never leave me.

To Sorrow and Bliss - knowing the story as I did on my second read, I heard Martha’s voice even more keenly, and wondered about those around her, who didn’t know enough or who did and let her trip over herself as she went through life. It was more heart-breaking, for both Martha and Patrick and also for her mother, and yet I wondered how on earth she got away with it for so long, how and why she was humoured - why we do that to people, ignore the bits we can’t face up to until the weeks run into years and into a whole adult life and you can’t go back anymore, it’s to late and too hard and too sad and too absolutely out of the question for everyone else.

I decided not to re-read my own review of Sorrow and Bliss until I finished my second read of the book, thinking how fun it would be to go back at that point and compare notes. What did I find? That I hadn’t got round to writing the review, which was a great disappointment, and reminder to fucking get on with it and write my mini review while they’re hot and fresh.