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[103] Shadow of a Man – May Sarton

Outmoded Author Challenge #4

For almost anyone in town snow is a sign of Christmas, a sign of rejoicing, which is accentuated by the insistent ring of Salvation Army’s collector bell, but for the Bradford it’s the opposite. Persis Bradford, who has entered so many lives and holds togethe, has decided to die quietly and discreetly, on Christmas’ Eve. Her funeral is held during the midst of this season’s joy.

Taking refuge in the numerous decisions for the funeral, Alan Bradford, the second husband, can barely withhold his despondency. Grief slowly chips away Francis’ pride and stony calmness, opening the eyes of Persis’ only son whom she has treated like a honored friend. Emotionally sterile, cynical, egotistic, and socially inept, his violent air of intensity and conflict renders him an outsider, someone who lives in hermetically sealed memories. He doesn’t seem to be capable of happiness and love, unless he is not aware of it.

A summer in France probes into the heart of matters he has preferred to conceal, the part of him to which he shuts down. The sojourn brings him in touch with family histories and memories of his parents through a close friend of his mother. The curiously feverish love-at-first-sight affair, although lacking the element to make it flourish, fills him with the awe of love and opens up to the gift of something one doesn’t know one has in possession.

The novel ponders at how the curiosity at the dead’s personality and the stirred-up feelings of people make people re-examine the meaning of life. The loss of a loved one allows Francis to see his mother, whose passion and will often deceive others as her being self-centered, with a new perspective, in a man’s eyes, in his step-father’s eyes. It dawns on him that love is only feasible at the obliteration of self in another self. Love is to take a leap into the dark. Maybe this is the power of the dead, who act as pure entities beyond will or good or evil, since for the living the dead never changes.

6 Responses

  1. I think I’m going to have to find this one. Sounds like an interesting book.

  2. I’ve heard such good things about May Sarton, I really should give her work a try. This is the second one by her that you’ve read, isn’t it?

  3. Greg:
    Thought you have read her before?

  4. Danielle:
    Yep this is my second Sarton book. I’ve enjoyed her writing style–so emotionally detached and yet involved–very much. 🙂

  5. You must read Sarton’s journals. They are her best writing by far. She was never an acclaimed novelist, although many of her books are very good. Start with “Journal of A Solitude.”

  6. Bryan:
    Thanks so much. Few others were reading Journal of a Solitude, which I couldn’t find. But I’ve put it on my list. 🙂

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