Thursday, 14 May 2015

Edwin and Matilda

New Zealand’s South Island makes an atmospheric setting for Laurence Fearnley’s novel, Edwin and Matilda. Subtitled ‘an unlikely love story’, it traces the developing relationship between Edwin, a recently-retired wedding photographer, and Matilda, the soon-to-be bride at Edwin’s last assignment.

Edwin is on his way to Franz Joseph to meet the mother he had thought was dead. He has not seen her since he was a young boy growing up in a tuberculosis sanatorium where his father was a doctor. Many years later Edwin discovered a photograph of his mother in a tourist magazine but has waited until his retirement to try to find her.

When he drops in to deliver Matilda’s photos, he learns that not only did her wedding never eventuate, but that Matilda is eager to make a documentary, and Edwin’s quest is an ideal opportunity. Matilda is a quirky young woman in her early twenties with fragile health. As Edwin slowly discovers his family history, Matilda’s own difficult relationship with her mother unfolds as well as the terrible facts of her illness.

The two make their way across the South Island and their stories unravel against the rugged landscape, a stark contrast with the cramped spaces where their conversations seem to take place: the inside of Edwin’s car and poky motel units.

Fearnley is a wonderfully spare and refined writer and her characters original and sympathetic. Although this is an ‘unlikely’ love story, there is nothing awkward here. I also enjoyed her imagining of Edwin's childhood in a TB sanatorium and the sadness of his parents' relationship is particularly moving. This is a lovely novel, compelling and elegant.

Posted by Jam

Catalogue link: Edwin and Matilda

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