Marking Time

marking time

Winter is Coming.

Only joking! (Extra points if you get the reference though.) It feels – fleetingly, perhaps – like the winter is over. I have dragged myself out of the concrete chrysalis that is London for the weekend, and all is blue sky, yellow daffodils, green shoots. Oh, but winter is hard work. We drag our pale little bodies around, swathed in layers, our shoulders held tense and high for six months straight. We forget that another life even exists; we look forward perhaps to a few hot, midsummer weeks. But we forget the bright little days of spring, when there’s a decision and a thrill in dashing out to get lunch without a coat, and you perch in little patches of sunlight, close your eyes and just breathe as your skin remembers what heat is. (And if you have a house with a roof in a chronic state, as I do, good weather has a whole new level of relief.)

It all feels a little frivolous, and I am reading accordingly. After a winter of fairly heavyweight literature, I’m busting out into dramas and blockbusters, and you can’t stop me. In this spirit, after finishing The Light Years last week I turned straight to the next in the series of The Cazalet Chronicles, Marking Time. This volume focusses on the three late-teenage girls, caught in the uneasy state between childhood and adulthood – hence the title. Unfortunately for them, this also coincides with the middle years of the Second War War – a time we usually see as full of death and danger, but as Howard explores, also a time of terrible boredom, suspended opportunities, coldness, and constant low-level hunger.

There’s no doubting Howard’s excellent understanding of human nature. Her simple writing is packed with insight, and it’s particularly keen on the girls’ resentment at being kept out of adult conversations. In several examples this is presented as emotional damaging. Adults think they’ll protect the young by keeping them in the dark when it only causes more harm, like the daughter who knows her mother is dying but can’t talk to anyone else about it because they are determinedly cheerful. But though this all sounds terribly worthy, Marking Time never strays from being light and readable, even if it’s skimming over deeper themes and darker emotions. Not so readable that I’m going to read the next in the series immediately – I’m not THAT frivolous – but I will look it up at some point, perhaps a holiday.

At, that’s a thought. Here’s to sunshine and light reads. (Although the novel I started today deals with child murder. I’m not good at this, am I…)

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