There are times when all I need is a good cover. That sounds a bit ambiguous, doesn’t it, but when it comes to books I’ve never seen or heard of before, the visual encounter is the first step. I was drawn to this book by the image displayed on the cover – a girl at the edge of a pool, a reflection in the water, a gate and the forest behind. All the elements whispered of secrets and mystery and as I picked it up and read the first page, I knew I had found my next read.
The book tells the story of Paul Asher who is trying to put his life back together after the war. He is offered a job at Farundell, to help old Lord Percival Damory write his memoirs. What seems like an easy task turns out to be an extraordinary experience that will change him.
Farundell is a house with a history and so are the people who live there: Theo, with her love of gardening and intriguing conversations, inquisitive Alice who always wants to know the how and why of things, Lord Damory and his tales of travels into the Amazonian jungle (which is a wonderful story in itself), Daniel, whose secluded life is a result of his traumatic war experience, and the list goes on.
Paul is welcomed into this “extended family” and he settles into a pleasant routine until the arrival of beautiful Sylvie who turns everything upside down. From that point on things go down the path of obsession. Erotic passages mingle with dreams and reality becomes just a word. What is real and what is dream? Can we control both? The inhabitants of Farundell seem to be able to do that and it made me wonder if the place was not some sort of portal into the realm of the subconscious.
Although the story is somewhat intricate, with lots of references thrown in, from the quotes of Pymander (let’s not forget a passing nod to Dickens) which serve to enrich the reading experience with well-placed and apparently random phrases, to the Greek gods – Alice’s cat is named Artemis – I found they only enhance the dreamy quality of the whole novel. The language style ranges from beautiful and poetic to blunt and straightforward but this is what makes the whole book intriguing.
There are whole passages where language seems to transcend the words….this is one of my favorites:
He touched the papery hand of his cousin Millicent but the picture that arose was of a ten-year-old, holding his hand as he helped her into a boat on another summer day. Her dry old voice rustled among the memories of her laughter. ‘Millie,’ he said, ‘do you remember….’ and she did, and they sat together and remembered until it seemed to him that the child, moist as a green bud, would burst through his sere and ancient skin and he would run again, naked, light as a leaf, down to the water to swim and splash and play. Goodbye, Millie.
I confess being curious about the author so I did a little research. It turns out Farundell is only the first novel in a series called Time and Light. The second book, Fate, is due to be released next year.
On her site, http://www.lrfredericks.com/, the author offers visitors a glimpse into her creative world and the interview there helped me understand the novel better. I had, however, a few questions of my own which I wanted to ask and the author was very kind to answer them.
How did the idea of writing Farundell come to life and what’s behind the name?
I wanted to write the sort of book I like to read, one that goes beneath the surface of things, asks interesting questions, perhaps even expands consciousness! But also, a book that gives pleasure and that touches the heart.
Farundell is an old Anglo-Saxon field name meaning a “quarter part” – same root as fardle and farthing. I’d been searching for ages for the right name for the Damory’s house, and when I came upon Farundell in a book called Old English Place Names I knew at once that was IT. I’d originally titled the book Time and Light; my publishers thought that was too abstract and urged Farundell instead. They were totally right!
I will not ask what your favorite book is but can you name one that has made a lasting impression?
Little, Big by John Crowley.
On your site there’s a short video of Farundell. Have you also thought of painting a scene or a character from the book?
I have and I did. Various scenes and settings; also a portrait of Paul that friends tell me is very haunting. I don’t want to publish it because I really feel that readers need to visualise for themselves. A writer should give just enough of a description to suggest, never impose. Having said that, I’d love to know how different readers do picture him!
Will any other characters from Farundell, apart from Francis, be present in the second book of the series?
I’m not finished with it yet, so I can’t be sure. Alice may have a cameo appearance, perhaps also Theo. But a later book will pick up Paul and Alice ten years or so after Farundell.
Although Farundell is a wonderful trip into the land of dreams and reality, some may find reading it a bit of a challenge. What sort of reader do you envision for your book?
An open minded one, who is willing to dip a toe into the unknown. A reader who doesn’t need or want to have every single little thing spelled out for them, who gets a thrill out of finding hidden meanings, discovering symbols, connecting the dots. A reader who loves a book that can be read more than once.
How do you unwind at the end of a hard day’s work?
Anything without words in it: I weed the garden, weather permitting. I listen to music, I go for long walks. I paint or play about with my synthesiser. I cook myself a nice dinner. I sleep.
*read in June 2011