|Reviews for All Is Mended|
| kslchen chapter 9 . 7/1/2022
I love a good second hand bookshop! Whoever runs a second hand bookshops has to love books by definition, so one immediately knows that inside is a person who truly gets it. Plus, there's something lovely about the idea of giving old books new homes, so that many more people can read and enjoy them. (Also, more story for your money. That, too.) Thus, perusing a second hand bookshop is a most welcome past-time and I'm deeply annoyed by that fact that for some reason, they never really took of around here. We used to have one selling old English books, but is closed years ago. It's a serious shortage in my opinion!
Una, of course, also enjoys a good bookshop and I'm sure she prefers the second hand ones over those selling shiny, new copies. I really liked watching her as she perused the books, because it felt a lot like she was greeting old friends. Sometimes, there's the element of the books being connected to people she cares about, but the books themselves clearly mean something to her, too, so it's the books that are friends proper, not just ways to remember personal connections (or ghosts, as it were). We know that Una loves her poetry and that the poems speak to her in many ways, both the old and the newer ones.
Obviously, being about books, this chapter brings the Blyton you promised! I've always enjoyed the Adventure series more than the Famous Five one (Kiki was just that much more interesting than Timmy, as far as my girl-self was concerned), so I heartily approve of this choice for Robin. (Though I'm still over here singing the praises of Pippi Longstocking! Robin would most definitely like her, if someone were to provide her with a copy. The English translation is a few years away yet, but maybe when the time comes, Mr Swallow can step up to the task? He sounds like the person who would have and sell books from all over the world.)
In addition to Una revisiting ghosts through books, this chapter also does a lot with regards to building and re-building relationships between characters. We discussed the complexity of sister relationships and it's something we see very realistically rendered here. Both Una and Faith are doing the best to rework the relationship of old and to some extent, they're suceeding, but there are also things they simply cannot talk about. Understanding why that is and recognising those boundaries is an important step, I think, and while there will likely never be a full understanding or complete disclosure between them, trying their best to understand and respect and love each other is already a whole lot!
The other interesting relationship in this chapter is, of course, that of Una and Mr Swallow. Obviously, I love him simply for owning a second hand bookshop and I love him a little more for it being as disorganised as it is. I mean, it would drive me crazy and I heartily identify with Una and her need to organise it all, but I feel the haphazardous state of the shops reflects an even greater love of books. Maybe it's because it means that mainly, Mr Swallow has a book-filled place, with the intention to sell them for money coming second? I mean, someone out to sell as many books would keep them neat and organised so everyone could find everything, right? Mr Swallow, I'm sure, knows where every book is anyway and I bow to him for not stopping Una's organising process. She needs to do this and judging from this first glimpse at a connection we see here, I have a feeling this is a blossoming friendship they both need, too.
| Parnokianlipstic chapter 9 . 6/30/2022
My poor words may not adequately describe how beautiful this chapter is, and how much I loved it.
Right from the first moment.
Your Una does what she can at Larkrise, and naturally cooking, there is a mildly ironic thought that because of Teddy Lovall, who has a gift for cooking, Faith has forgotten the little that Rosemary managed to teach her about cooking.
How charming that Robin and Isobel Blythe found each other, both girls have more than a touch of fae, in them.
And that used bookstore, the piles of books, the gnomish owner, Mr. Swallow, white poppies, all the ghosts, past and present, intermittently, Una walking and talking to her ghosts, lovely that she took books for them and herself too, and how touchingly beautiful the selection, and the poetry, and the camp memories that cookbooks evoke. Recipes kept them sane, I think, and meat dishes were part of the British tradition.
A wonderful friendship between Mr Swallow, who is haunted by his years in Greece, and Una, you describe its birth subtly, one stack of books, visit and a tecup in time and of course he likes Robin, who of course scales all the possible ladders of the place, who would not.
And then that tentative way of to find again of some common ground with Faith, of talks and silences, and the way Una shares her own memories of the past years in Singapore and Trinity House, and Faith's partial understanding.
Una and theater visits, Mara would be excellent in Coward, that play is wonderful, not as brilliant as some of his ouvre, but still, and the usual larks of Kingsport contingent, of murdertalks, church-business and odd Gilbert and Sullivan.
My dear, you have a phenomenal ability to capture private lingering moments. I adored especially the shades of different theologies, and naturally theologies were always her patch, of ACS and elsewhere too. Flawless description, and Una's mission and search shines above everything, as does the varied shades of lingering ghosts, and reams of memories, and anedcotes that Una lives with daily..
| Tinalouise88 chapter 9 . 6/30/2022
Oh dear dear Claire, you know how I feel about this and Mr. Gnome. Even though I really know a few things about him. But I do enjoy his profession and the shop, but I do love a good bookshop in general, the smell of them. They just are so much fun.
I also really love your descriptions in this of Mr. Gnome, I know his name is Mr. Swallow, but he will be forever Mr. Gnome. It really does fit in with the gremlins, cherubs, and goblins that make up your cast of people. His shock and easiness about Singapoore as well, and it matches the shock about his poppy in a way. It's all very even between them in my mind...if that even makes sense to you. But I do enjoy how they can banter about Poetry together and those modern Writers of all people lol.
Of course Ballet Shoes, is such a lovely book and I did enjoy the movie before as well. I did chuckle at Una organizing his books for him after spending years doing it for Carl. I dare say he offers her a job at some point? Also his tolerance for rowdy children who had a monkey for a playmate for the longest time. I suppose in some ways Kingsport must find Robin completely uncivilized at times? I can hear the tongue wagging at church should they go...but I can also hear Robin asking who God was and why is there a building for him? I doubt there would be much talk about church at camp.
i look forward to more, but you know that already!
| oz diva chapter 8 . 6/28/2022
One rather gets the feeling the consulate has spent much time and money creating a structure of permanence to fool people into confidence in their abilities. I'm reminded of the end of MASH when Klinger is looking for his girlfriend's family. "this woman is short with dark hair, and that man is also short and has black hair, as does this one." it was futile then and I fear it will be for Una too. The way we describe people is so lacking in details. Admittedly, in the consul's defence half the world is is looking for lost people so locating one person or in this case three half way around the world was always going to be fraught. That a white woman is looking for Chinese ones will naturally cause suspicion too.
Interesting that Una has chosen those particular photos because they do make for a rather outlandish and certainly exotic group with lizards atop heads and a monkey hanging down. Not your average Canadian family for sure. And I like the image of them on that green counter, because the cinematography would be very beautiful if it were ever to be filmed, but meanwhile I shall just imagine those bright colours.
And to give the official his due. I'll give him the benefit of doubt that he'll do his best for Una. Certainly he won't have heard a similar story this week and maybe that's moved him to work hard to find the family.
Tell me did they actually send a live lizard in the mail?
| OriginalMcFishie chapter 8 . 6/23/2022
I can't begin to consider thenightmare of finding people after such an upheaval. I fear they may never find each other (thank goodness this is a story. Youcan make the impossible happen, right?). Love the connection between those from the camp
| Tinalouise88 chapter 8 . 6/23/2022
It's a shorter chapter, but it has all the feels.
I want to slap the consulate man silly, it never feels right, it isn't right. First he goes on about not caring to find the japanses to essentially telling her that there is little use of resources they will use to look for her family. It's horrid that is for sure.
I am glad that Una has some coloured photographs though! they sound lovely and amazing. Colour photo's were such an expense and a treat to have. Old Autocromes are lovely for sure, so vibrant as well!.It gut wrenching to have Una tell her story to someone who barely cares or even seen the war most likely. It's hearbreaking, and if he has any part of a soul he would be more willing to try, but at the same time I wonder just how many of these sorts of things he has looked into and found nothing about.
All the letters are lovely as well. It's been so long since this story was told their letters and it bring but memories for me. I did have a laugh at comparing Shirley's jobs to be even worse then an over worked priest/clergyman.
As always you know I am awaiting the next chapter with fevor and impending excitement...I know you cut it short because it worked better, so I look forward to next week!
| kslchen chapter 8 . 6/23/2022
Una going to the consulate here reminded me of Una going to Rosemary to ask her to marry her father. This Una, of course, is much more assertive and her cause is much more important, but inside her is still the young girl who's willing to take very walk and willing to do everything she can to help those she loves. The spirit is the same, even if the way her conversation with the man at the consulate unfolds also shows how she has changed in the intervening years - or maybe how the world and life and two wars changed her. Even as a girl and half-orphan, she knew loss, but he knows it so much better now, and that knowledge influenced the woman she became.
I really enjoy how you managed to write this assertive Una who speaks plainly to whomever stands in her way. She's changed from canon-Una, becoming someone who actively lives her life instead of watching life pass her by, but the way you write her, she's still in tradition of canon Una. With everything we know about her, the development feels believable. When looking at her and especially when being reminded of what she's been through in the past years, you can see how she went from being the girl we know from RV to the woman we see here. It feels like a natural progression, when taking into account her history.
It'll hardly surprise you that I like this more assertive Una better than the more timid canon character. She was always capable of great courage, but as a child, this courage came as a surprise to even her, whereas now, I think she knows she can be brave beyond reason, even when it's harder than could be imagined. She's blunter now and plainer, because she's learned that just because someone has been put into authority, like Henderson and this new guy at the consulate, they aren't necessarily to be respected. She knows how to handle types like these now and while I'm sure she dislikes having to open up about herself like this, we see her, again, do whatever is necessary to help those she loves.
You write an excellent letter exchange, as evidenced in EC, and we see that again here in this little snippet, even with the letters being much shorter than what Gilbert, John and Jo used to write. The way you write these women's voices is interesting, for their differences as well as their similarities. They all forgo unnecessary words, writing only what is necessary and what needs to be said, in the knowledge that the recipient of the letter will fill the gaps. There's a deep understanding there that connects them and we see it even in the way they write. It's probably also a remnant of their time in the camp, when everything was reduced to the bare minimum, possibly even speech.
Now, I urgently need to know - did Emily send Robin a real, living lizard? If so, what is its name? (Also, I noticed and appreciated that Harry is being talked about in present tense. One of them just has to be immortal!)
| Parnokianlipstic chapter 8 . 6/23/2022
What an utter joy!
First the Hardy, whom I adore with frevent passion that quote sets a wonderful vibe. And yes, somehow all consulates and extremely fine hotels are like carved from the same wood, so to speak.
All interiors, lamps, and wall decorations, floral, plaster or other. The slight shadow the Una as the child she was, the one staggering moment of bravery, of asking Miss Cornelia, to shelter Mary, naturally she would think that instance, as she tries to find her family.
And that desk, naturally greenish topped marble, is the perfect backdrop for colored and black-and-white photographs, the treasures of Una.
You describe in a tremendous way the colonialist way of thinking, the ethnic differences, of Li and Iris, the danger of them, in Japan occupied Singapore. The silent, and limpid and icy rage of Una, and the controlled eruption, and the poetry of Yates, as a kind of spiritual anchor, even in this challenge, the prejudices of officials, and incompetence of Henderson. The way Una described certain facts of her ordeals in Occupied Singapore, hauntingly vivid to the Kingsport official deskperson.
And then the letters of her campfamily. I loved them, as you knew that I would.
Cressida, Bernice, Joan M. The cherry on the cake was references and internal jokes, of their own patiois, the really crappy piano playing of Henderdon is gruesome, and Handel will surely turn to his grave, as naturally Una would notice pianist-hands, even in officals.
It is historically interesting that we are now in 1946, that is, a time of reconstruction everywhere, but the horrors experienced are haunting, still as they should, and will while longer.
And heartwarming was that hint of a romance with Iain and Una’s warm reassurence of Shirleys way of doing things, and to be sure of.
it suits Una, so very much!
And Una at Larkrise. I cannot help but wonder how Una is able to be in Faith's home, even temporarily, after all her own and independent years? Not to mention camp experiences? Of course they get along, but, the sliver of tension could be growing.
Summa summarum. I loved this!
| oz diva chapter 7 . 6/22/2022
I find Una's situation so real. She yearned for this party for years stuck in that hell hole. She admits that it's what kept her going, but dreams are not reality. And the fact is that she doesn't really know these people and more to the point they don't know her. Iain put it best, when he noticed how different she was to the picture the family painted of her. And of course that makes sense because the shy little girl who left them grew into a confident woman in Singapore.
You write a great party of course, with a myriad of snatches of conversation. Mary Vance is just a tone deaf as ever. The margarine comment is particularly galling, but sweet in a way because her war was completely protected, I guess. I can't see her lasting long in a prison camp. You need the sort of strong calmness that Una has in spades, but anyone as aggressively clueless as Mary would be killed or die off pretty quickly.
Interesting that it's Shirley and later Alice that come closest to understanding Una's predicament. And I love how you just drop in snippets of information from before, like the crickets for instance. To our western ears the eating of insects is so foreign, but those insects saved her life and who can judge someone who just wants to live. But compare that to the eating of margarine and one just has to laugh in incredulity.
I think my favourite part was the one about the crickets actually and how she had to eat them but how would she face Carl again? And I swear to all things holy if Carl does make any comment about it if he does eventually turn up, I will reach through the screen and throttle the man - time and fictionality notwithstanding. Vegetarianism is all very well and good, but not in such a vitamin deprived situation as this.
Now starts the process of getting to know each other again or even for the first time, and I think I shall enjoy the reading of it.
| Tinalouise88 chapter 7 . 6/18/2022
This chapter really shows both us and Una how much time has passed since her time in Singapore. By her noting the ages of her nieces and nephews. By not knowing that Rilla had another child. I do wonder just what she thought of Amaryllis’s name haha. And the small wonder about Jim’s and how it was not something to ask about. While I know that story fairly well from talks. I still can’t wait for it one day.
Of course all the talk about margarine vs butter, oh good. Such a thing to complain about! Why is it every Canadian war book of sorta and we both know because it’s on your coffee table…and I’m looking at it right now haha.
I do enjoy the small mention of Mandy I do miss her as well. And Faiths constant older sister hugs that fix all it seems. It’s always lovely when siblings have that ability.
Her conversation with Shirley about the war, about Iain and all the geography is lovely. The observations back in their younger days believing that known of their children would ever have to see a war, yet twenty years later another generation is, and they are living it all once again in a way their parents had lived it, with the exception of Una of course. She actually lived though a war in ways that no one else truly has.
Now I will go back to watching x-files with you!
| kslchen chapter 7 . 6/18/2022
With the exception of visits, the Singapore element of the extended family always felt so self-contained that it's curious to see Una immersed in the bustle created when everyone comes together. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's jarring, but she clearly doesn't fit in. When everyone comes together like this, there's a loudness that just just doesn't fit with Singapore (before the war, at least). Iris was very spirited as a child and there was Puck wreaking havoc, but I always felt the Singapore chapters held a sort of tranquillity (again, we're talking pre-war here) that few of the other smaller parts of the family could replicate and certainly not all of them together.
Therefore, even if she hadn't experienced what she did, it would have made sense for Una to empathically not want the party they're throwing for her. Or, really, not so much for her as for themselves. I understand it, because Una is family and she basically just returned from the dead, so they all want to see and meet her, but for her, it's obviously something she has to go through, rather than something she enjoys. I think she understands where they're coming from as well and recognises it as a well-meant gesture, but it's yet another show of how far she has grown apart from the Canadian contingent of the extended family.
Most interestingly, in that vein, was her interaction with Faith. I really liked the way you wrote them here because it just rings very true. They're so very different and have lived such different lives that it would be unnatural for that not to show. Yes, they're sisters and yes, they have shared experiences to look back upon, but their differences also set them apart. I think what comes through so well in Una's thoughts here is that she loves Faith fiercely, but that she's aware that Faith doesn't really understand her, not anymore and perhaps never fully. Sister relationships are complicated things and that is shown well here. You can love someone and still also resent them at times, which is just what we see with Una here - even as we also see the love wining out at the end.
Just as the differences between Una and Faith are emphasised, it also stands out how Una is clearly drawn to the quieter people in the family, who connect to her better. Shirley gets it right when he says that none of them have a proper reading of her anymore, showing that he sees the change in her at least. Her conversation with Naomi shows the silent sort of instinctive understanding that the interaction with Faith lacks, because Naomi is clearly one of the few people who *gets* it. So is Alice Caldicote, who strikes up an immediate connection to Una despite them never having met before. Perhaps it's precisely their lack of previous history that makes it possible for Una to share these bits of information about the camp, but that she does is certainly meaningful. I have a feeling there's a great potential of friendship between these two women.
| Parnokianlipstic chapter 7 . 6/16/2022
Stunning, incisive and so completely right. This re-union is everything.
Half shadows, strong, deep memories and thoughtlessness, oh Mary! Naturally, it was Mary’s utterance that was the last straw for Una, and thank God that Una shared some of the truth and her own camp experiences with even some non-campfamily.
Another thing that made me think about the inevitable passage of time and life in Unas Singapore for years was the kids, and the extended Ingelsideans and others, which are naturally your creations. So wonderful to see them, with Unas eyes, but naturally there are the distance, and some bitterness, deep in her soul. There were once again so much to love in this. Naomi and Una, Una and Jerry, and the very moving talk with Shirley, of Iain, but also of Walter. There was some real honesty there.
This was utter marvel and joy, an glimmering jewel of a chapter! And the final lines, so poiginat, funny, but so real, and the echoes and past gohsts, of flowers, and fallen comrades. Brava!
| OriginalMcFishie chapter 7 . 6/16/2022
Commiserating about the horror of margarine has immediately entered my vernacular to describe such situations. You weave a rich tale here. it reminds me of a van Gogh or one of the other pointillism artists. lots of small detail that in itself is inconsequential, but step back and the picture is deeply detailed. I love how you bring us up to date on everyone through Una beig updated, how those closest to her can't begin to comprehend Unas experience, how its Alice, a less close friend who gets the details of the cricket and how the very page you've written this on screams at the pain, the wound that can't heal as it festers, of Carl and Li and Firecracker still missing
| kslchen chapter 3 . 6/14/2022
Once again, what come through in a way that feels very real is the surrealism of what constitutes as ‘normal’ life after life in the camp. The previous chapter ended on the note of what, even, counts as normal and we see that theme continue in the beginning here. Yes, to all the world, sleeping in beds with pillows and blankets and mosquito nets would be the most normal thing in the world, but only because it’s what they’re used to. These women (and Puck and Robin) alas, grew used to not having beds to sleep in, so theirs has become a different normal. I assume that, with time, they’ll move from the floor up to beds again, but for now, the floor provides the comfort of the known.
Robin, in some ways, emphasises the strangeness of their surroundings even more. For the older women, it all harkens back to the past, to a life they once knew and lived, but for Robin, it’s all new. The camp was her world for her entire life, so Raffles and Singapore must be wondrous sights to her. She has the curiosity and resilience of children on her side, helping her explore her new surroundings and get to know them in a way that is constructive rather than scary, plus, of course, she has the benefit of being secure in the knowledge that she’s loved and protected and that there’s very little – if anything – her unlikely blended family wouldn’t do for her.
In that sense, she’s similar to Iris, back when she was younger and before everything fell apart. Of course, Iris was a little older than Robin is now, but she, too, was a girl who was loved without reservations by the three adults in her family who tried to keep her world unburdened and intact for as long as humanly possible. There’s no doubt that Li continued and continues to try and keep Iris safe, wherever they are, but that innocence and certainty of belief can’t be reclaimed for Iris, I fear. For her, we can only hope that she and her parents somehow survived safely and that we will one day see them again.
It's this precise thought, of course, that also informs Una’s own musings about what to do in the future, now that they can, in theory, go where they please again. England might be the obvious place for some of the other women, but for Una, it’s far less simple. For one, there *is* Puck, who already proved that he won’t be left behind, no matter what. For another, there are Li and Carl and Iris, who could still return and recognise her in all her blues. Lastly, there is Singapore itself, which, for all the trials, has become home to her. Yes, she will try and find Robin’s family and help Emily, too (though Iain seems to have that covered for the most part), but Singapore is too much her place for England or Canada to suddenly be it, now.
(Sorry for having to double back and commenting out of order. I thought I had done this, but it turns out I hadn't, so I had to go back to it.)
| kslchen chapter 6 . 6/14/2022
As advised and discussed, I’m skipping chapter 5, for reasons you know well. I might return to it at a later point and if I do, I shall make sure to let you know my thoughts, but as of now, let me simply speed onwards to the safer grounds of chapter 6 – which indeed does bring quite a lot of change with it!
How long has it been since Una was in Canada the last time? Years, certainly, maybe a decade or two? Did she ever go back for a visit at all after moving to Singapore? Either way, it was a long, long time ago, so the PEI she remembers must look very differently from the way it looks now. I’m sure there’s a bittersweet element to it, but maybe it’s also helpful in its own way. Una didn’t come back to relive her past, so to find that the country and the island and even the village have moved on makes it easier to return without being drawn into a past she has no desire to awaken.
We see this, I think, right there in the beginning, when the present Una takes off her shoes and plays in the ocean with Robin. She’s aware that this is not something past Una would have done, but this knowledge doesn’t hold her back. She’s not trying to be her old self and she’s lived too long and lived too much to even pretend so. As a child, Una used to hold herself back for fear of what the world might think, but she’s past that now and instead allows herself and Robin a lively and carefree moment by the shore.
She needs that defiance, clearly, as the world muscles in on their little moment, with its judgements and wrong conclusions. That’s not to say they aren’t easy conclusions to draw and that it isn’t human to do so, but it all means that Una and Robin are facing a society that doesn’t understand them or at least only understands them once it’s explained to them. That’s evident with Bruce, who’s not unkind and clearly tries to be supportive throughout, but who doesn’t understand in the beginning and perhaps only understands party of it after Una has explained. The bare facts are simple enough to get right, but the entire range of emotions behind them are too much to grasp for an outsider, even if he is well-meaning.
Speaking of emotions, I think your Una is an amazing example of how much one person can bear and still be able to somehow move on. Obviously, she’s been through a sort of hell in that camp, certainly physically and also emotionally, despite the support and love shared between the women. For all she knows, she’s lost the three people she was closest to before the war, she’s lost the home they made together and now, when she returns to the place that was home a long time before, she learns that she also lost her father. She’s grieving and hurting and she *is* exhausted, but she finds a way to carry on, for Robin and for herself, and that’s a beautiful thing to behold.