House on Endless Waters

endless 2

House on Endless Waters
By Emuna Elon
Allen & Unwin – £14.99

I myself hope that my writing does not wallow in the mire of the past, but carries my soul and the souls of my readers to what is the present and to what will be in the future.

[…] being Dutch is no simple matter.

If I were to have any gripe about Emuna Elon’s House on Endless Waters, it would be her occasional tendency to rather ramble on; where cutting to the chase would be more beneficial to both reader and that of the story being told.

For as wonderful as Amsterdam undoubtedly is (my mother was Dutch and as such, I spent a great deal of my childhood in the city) I wouldn’t have thought one necessarily needs page after page of descriptive analysis of the city’s surroundings.

This isn’t a Thomas Hardy novel after all – much as I adore his writing – and because of the nature of the story bring told (essentially that of self-discovery), one instinctively feels the need to find out things much sooner than they’re invariably being told within these 309 pages.

Two perfect examples being the following:
‘’Perhaps the day will come when he’ll train himself to use a word processor. Perhaps the day will come when he’ll even train himself to live, a day when he will walk the earth like everyone else without being overcome by the thought that in fact it’s odd, even ridiculous, to be a human being, a cluster of organs that wear out constantly as it runs here and there, wrapped in all sorts of fabrics and making all sorts of sounds.’’
‘’Now he could recall only the watery stains of paint gently merging into one another: the child walking beside his mother, a child-stain merging into a mother-stain who merges into a sea-stain and a sky-stain against a backdrop of a fishing-village stain.’’
(The latter being in direct reference to the protagonist Joel, having stumbled upon the Dutch painter, Josef Israels’ Mother and Child Walking on the Dunes).

I cannot help but wonder how someone like Bob Dylan may have managed to convey the very same sentiments in a mere few words. Admittedly, he works in a slightly different medium, but you hopefully get my drift.

So, all told, I can only ever so partially agree with Lynda Cohen Loigman (author of The Two-Family House and The Wartime Sisters) when she writes: ‘’In House on Endless Waters, Emuna Elon envelops her readers in an intricately woven and lushly layered world. With achingly exquisite, delicate prose, Elon explores the creative mind’s power to re-imagine a life and memory’s power to recognise truth.’’

This book is ‘’intricately woven’’ to such a cloying degree, it gets caught up within a claustrophobic net of its own making. This is a mighty shame because some of the language and imagery throughout is indeed wonderful.

David Marx

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