Thursday, March 8, 2018

Crouching Tiger

Despite having far too many books that I can chew, I cannot stop acquiring books. In the month of February, apart from having books that I have purchased from the bookshop and on line, I have received books as gifts as well. Bliss.

 A couple of weeks ago, I had a drink with a friend at a cafĂ© that serves coffee amongst rows of books belonging to the proprietor, some of them are for sale at various  prices. My friend ended up picking up Bridget Jones Baby for her sister who was about to deliver her second child. I had a quick browse around one of the shelves and in an instant, I picked   out The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman and my friend paid for it - a gift from her for my birthday. Delightful. Both copies that we picked up were in pristine condition and I have to confess that my copy of The Tiger in the Well is no longer as good as new after I have read it.

The fiction is Pullman’s third book in his series entitled ‘The Sally Lockhart Quartet’. While  it is a sequel to The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well can be read as a stand- alone. The narration is straightforward and fast moving.

The story takes place in autumn, 1881. It definitely  had me hooked from its Chapter One  ‘The Process- Server” but  I was a tad  disappointed when I got to the end of the story. Nonetheless the story is a page turner as you need to know who could be after the heroine, Sally Lockhart and when she is on the run, you definitely want to root for her. Sally has a daughter, Harriet who is almost two years old and lives in a large home in Twickenham called Orchard House, ‘a Regency building, open and airy with iron balconies and a glass-roofed veranda facing the garden’. Just as she thinks that she has put behind her troubled past and settled into her new, quiet life as an investor and a  businesswoman, she is served with divorce papers filed by  a commission agent named Arthur Parrish claiming  to be her husband. Parrish, an imposter also claims that he is  Harriet’s father and that Sally has been a bad  and scandalous woman for having taken his money and run away with their child. An unknown evil person has made elaborate plans to steal Sally’s life away from her – her home life and her business. The allegations made by Parrish are wholly untrue and preposterous as Harriet’s father, Frederick Garland has died in a fire. Sally had borne Harriet out of wedlock. Sally goes to a lawyer who seems to focus on the charges stated in the affidavit rather than addressing the issue as to whether Sally was ever married in the first place. Sally writes to Harriet’s aunt, Rosa who is married to a clergyman trying to locate the priest who falsifies the Marriage registration  that has never taken place.
Elsewhere in London, after being driven abroad by the first pogroms, the  Jewish immigrants  from Russia  get off a boat to enter England and when they arrive, they find themselves with no English, no papers and no money.Daniel Goldberg and Jacob Lieberman are two Socialist journalists who are trying to uncover the evil behind the fraud  that is causing a lot of hurt to the Jews who are being systematically fleeced. Dan believes that a paralysed man known as  Tzaddik is the mastermind behind and Parrish is also involved with Tzaddik. The Jewish community is being persecuted in the same plight that is pursuing Sally.She has to find out why Parrish is doing what he is doing and who is behind him. Sally is portrayed by Pullman as a woman who is smart,strongminded and brave. When she puts Harriet in bed, she tells her,
You’re being a good girl. Can you be a brave girl too?”   
The ordeal that puts both Sally and Harriet through has certainly brought them close.
Sally said,
        “And we won’t let anyone be bad to us again, will we?”
         “ Not bloody likely,” said Harriet.

That’s the way to go, Harriet.  Sally Lockhart is the epitome of what a woman should aspire to be.  She is strong in face of trouble and she is kind and also fearless. Happy Women’s Day !

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