This is the first novel I have read in English this year, by an author I have to say I didn’t know. One of my Spanish followers knew him as an author of travel books and she has no idea he wrote novels too, so I finally deduced Bruce Chatwin is not well known in my country.
The story begins when two twins in their eighties wake up one morning, one of many, and start doing their daily activities in the house and on their farm, a farm where they have been living all their lives and that soon will be transferred to their beloved nephew, Kevin.
These brothers are Lewis and Benjamin Jones and they have never got married nor had children, they have no more family other than Kevin, and all their lives they have been working as farmers in the same fields on the farm The Vision, just on the border between Wales and England.
After a very short first chapter, we go back in time when the twins’ parents met each other. It was the last year of the nineteenth century and Mary had come to Britain with her father from India; she was the most exotic thing Amos Jones had ever seen. They got married when Mary’s father died and they settled on the farm. The twins were born at the beginning of the next century, as two parts of a person; one supplemented the other.
As Lewis and Benjamin grow up, the author shows how people lived in a rural environment during all those years, without any remarkable changes, just working hard on the land. At first we know their family, a well educated mother living together with a rude farmer and the difficulty in understanding each other, and the twins’ grandfather, who found a new life with them. We also see the relations with the neighbors; there were real friendships sometimes but lifelong hatres in other cases. We are allowed to glance at other characters’ matters on the lands around The Vision: the hard life of illegitimate children, religious fanaticism in the village or how unprotected the disabled were in an isolated rural area.
The story is composed of anecdotes of Benjamin and Lewis’ lives, but summarizing the plot could give you an idea of a boring book because you could think that nothing happens in the book, but the reality is that you read and read and, when you least expect it, the story is over and you have to say goodbye to the twins, whose story you now know really well. The relationship between both of them is curious since they feel what the other twin feels and they can’t be apart from the other nor from the land where they belong: in the eighties they kept the house as their mother decorated it in her youth, and they had been sleeping in the same bed with the same handmade covers for decades.
As my first reading in English this year, I have to confess I found it really difficult to understand. At first I picked up the dictionary two, three, four times, and I finally read the book on the table with google translator open on the laptop next to me. Chatwin uses short, direct phrases but with a wide range of vocabulary. Otherwise, the dialogues show the way rural people speak – all of them except Mary, who was an educated woman – and sometimes I didn’t understand them.
In general, I have to say I liked the story – if you can trust I understood it! I couldn’t help comparing it with The grapes of wrath since both stories have poor and working families and the plots go slowly. I will also try to watch the film to see how the twins and their land were.
My Spanish review here.