Sunday, 24 July 2011

And I will make thee beds of roses

There's just one more week for you to get yourself a copy of the Kindle edition of The Year of Wonders at the special offer price of 99 cents - in the US here, in the UK here, and in mainland Europe here.

Recent discussion in these parts having been on the definition of fantasy, I should explain that there is a very broad range on display in these letters to the Royal Mythological Society. As the green comet's effect is to erase the line between the real and the imaginary, you will find every flavor of the fantastic from gods to goblins to green-skinned Martians. But my own favorites are the non-genre stories that slip between the cracks. Like this one.
Dear sirs

You have heard the expression “a whirlwind romance” and I can attest that courtship truly can spin a person quite dizzy. Only a year ago, I was in Sicily with more thought of collecting archaeological specimens than of collecting a husband. And yet there at a little tavern overlooking the bay, a man at the next table sketched my portrait on his napkin and I could see at once that his eyes had found something beautiful in my poor plain thirty-year-old face. I shaded my eyes from the sun to look up at him. And like a Mediterranean storm, there it was, gentlemen: love.

We were wed soon after at his family church near Palma di Montechiaro, but my husband’s father does not approve of his choice of career as a painter, so to avoid daily arguments - which in Sicily can take on the proportions of a pitched battle - we returned to set up home in England, at a country estate left me by my uncle.

The estate has extensive grounds, and at first I was surprised at my husband’s enthusiasm for an activity so staid as gardening. But he said that the gardens would be his new canvas, and indeed his art found full expression there. When he is angry, the flower beds are violent with dark reds and brooding purples. When he is amused, the topiary bushes strike funny poses that have me laughing too. And when he is sad, the shrubbery droops and I seem to notice far more weeping willows about the lawn than at other times.

A wife frequently is left to guess at her husband’s moods, for men do not talk of their feelings even if they are Sicilian. Therefore I have come to rely on the garden’s visual cues to help me better understand his feelings and support him as a dutiful wife should. In the last week, however, the garden has changed in a way I do not recognize. The flowers are in full bloom, a thousand of them, so that everywhere one looks is a riot of passionate bright colours like the most heartfelt Impressionist painting. I have spoken of this with my young cousin Amanda, who recently came to stay with us, but though she has struck up quite a friendship with my husband she too is at a loss to explain what it all may mean.

With your wide experience of supernatural matters, I wonder if you are able to illuminate this mystery. For some reason it vexes me greatly, though why I cannot tell.

Yours faithfully, Mrs Rachel Sindona, High Wycombe

Prof Bromfield replies: Dear lady, do not allow your cousin to outstay her welcome. I will say no more.
(Photo by Ozeye from Wikipedia.)

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