In the Garden of the Fugitives by Ceridwen Dovey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Often when I read a novel, I find myself skimming through and then doubling back to read in more detail. Sometimes I’ll read the end chapter and then skip back and forth to bits that need more explanation. In the case of Ceridwen Dovey’s In the Garden of the Fugitives this is unnecessary. From the very beginning, Dovey lays out the story. There is no need to dart back-and-forth. However, toward the end there is a hidden, secret denouement. I read past it at first then had the “Aha!” moment. Even if you skip to the end, this moment will not be evident unless you read the entire book.
Ceridwen Dovey is a skillful, intelligent writer. She knows her subject, whether it be the archeological realm of Pompeii or the ins-and-outs of psychotherapy methods. I would venture that the two protagonists are pitted against each other in the same psych. arena. I only realised this after I finished the book and had to return to where I felt, or rather I sensed, where and when the denouement occurred. In retrospect, I realise that the timeline is not necessarily linear either.
If you do attempt this book, do not be put off by the format – letters (or emails). Be alert to the strength and significance of Dovey’s writing. It is illuminating. It is surprising. It is subtle and nuanced. It is unsettling and haunting.
This book, for me, is extraordinarily, mine.
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I am not a dedicated blogger. Every now-and-again I think of something interesting to say – but I don’t often follow through. Usually I think to myself, “more research needed before I post this”. Of course, this is a hangover from working for six-plus years on my doctoral thesis. Indeed, after my Scholarship finished, I had to work as well as complete the thesis. I have written about this before. My GP picked up on my listlessness/ennui and, without being patronising or mansplaining, suggested I take a look at the stages of chess. He pointed out that it seemed I was stuck in the Middle Game. I am not a chess player of any skill whatsoever, so he alerted me to the final step – the End Game. The comfort zone of ‘research’ must be concluded.
I considered his advice when I returned home. Among other things associated with research, I counted that I had 27 books from the University Library. OK! I decided to return all the books to the library – bar the two that I was actually using.
The next step was to consolidate all the chapters that were in separate documents on the computer. The Bibliography took more time and I was grateful for the Endnote referencing program. I was pleased that I had religiously listed every resource in the program so tidying up the Bibliography was not too arduous. Editing the thesis took time, I couldn’t believe how many times I repeated myself! Even so, one of the examiners pulled me up on repetitive phrases.
So, after six years of being fairly isolated from ‘real life’, I completed the final draft in six weeks. It was not all clear sailing after that. There are always a few glitches to contend with. One of them nearly broke my heart – but I’m over it now. Maybe I’ll write about that one day? Maybe not.
Submitting the work was a huge relief. Waiting for the examiners reports was deadly; like waiting for a bus that never arrives. Eventually the three reports came in. As is usual with my work the reports ranged from ‘excellent, no changes needed’ (I really liked that one) through to, ‘what a terrible thesis’. One of my mentors at Murdoch University defended my thesis to the examiner (who shall be nameless) and after some rewriting it was accepted.
I received notification that I had passed three days before my 60th birthday. I was now a fully fledged ‘Doctor of Philosophy’. Fat lot of good it did me. I never use my honorific – Aussies aren’t too taken with such things plus I’m always wary of being taken for a medical doctor.
C’est la vie