A young girl who prefers to be alone, who lacks the social skills to have friends, who marries young and rapidly becomes a mother. This is the intense story of Jessica Fontaine who longs for the air in her house to be hers alone, who manages a difficult marriage and worries about how she is raising her son. This is a story of a lifetime of self-discover and self-acceptance. This description may make the book sound as if nothing happens but it does and, as in any Clare Morrall, subtlety is layered on subtlety.
Jessica grows up at Audlands, a country house which is decaying around the family. Her father was a successful chocolate manufacturer and the house a symbol of his success. As he grows older and the company fails, so does the house. Jessica and her sister Harriet grow up side-by-side, loving the house, the dirt and cobwebs, but not really knowing or understanding each other. Only when Jessica discovers the piano does she find freedom.
This is a novel about Asperger’s and the autism spectrum and one woman’s acceptance of her own emotional issues and how they impact and intertwine with the emotional issues of her unpredictable husband Andrew and quiet solitary child Joel. As she grows older, through music and with a supportive friend, Jessica learns the tools to make life easier. ‘Pretence gives you room to get around obstacles without touching them, the space to observe that there are other sides to people, not just the abrasive, challenging attitude that you can’t cope with. You have to view people from new angles, see where the light falls, discover which edges have been worn down and softened with time. Otherwise you get so caught up in the negatives you can’t see anything else.’
There is a lot of wisdom in this book, insights in how to behave – and not behave – within relationships, and how to be forgiving of others.
‘The Language of Others’ by Clare Morrall [UK: Sceptre] Buy here
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