I don’t tend to post a lot of reviews here, but I’ve made an exception for Lisa Blower’s Pond Weed and here’s why….
I read this very quickly much quicker than Selwyn and Ginny’s journey from Stoke to Wales. This is the third book of Lisa’s that I’ve read, and they continue to grow in richness and depth, much like the contents of one of Selwyn’s pond experiments. If you haven’t read Sitting Ducks or It’s All Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s House, you really should.
Pondweed concerns itself with Ginny and Selwyn an unusual couple who were neighbours in their teens and have met again in their late 60’s and early 70’s with Selwyn being the slightly older and supposedly wiser of the two. Ginny is our unreliable narrator who steers us through the present via the past and who has a larder full of secrets that are gradually revealed along their journey.
Pondweed starts when Selwyn arrives home early from work and instructs Ginny to pack her bags as they’re going on holiday to Wales. Try as she might she cannot get the reason for this impromptu break or their final destination. This book is all about language, the words the characters use and the economy and finesse with which Blower uses them to convey a situation or a character. At one-point Selwyn and Ginny stay in a grim room at a pub called The Swan with Two Necks,
“The room is dissatisfying and small. The door opens onto the double bed with its feeble white duvet, and there’s a window above the bed, with curtains that don’t meet in the middle.”
Brief, concise and crisp – much crisper than the sheets on the bed.
Throughout the book, we are treated to quotes from Selwyn Robby’s The Great Necessity of Ponds. I found these quotes interesting for several reasons. Firstly, I’d just dug, lined and filled a pond in my garden so any tips are greatly received but more importantly it was a glimpse at Selwyn’s inner life and his lifelong passion, and they often reflected what was going on in the book. This quote from the beginning of The Tenth Day chapter could equally relate to Ginny and Selwyn’s journey and relationship,
“Water beetles can fly, and they readily leave the pond, usually at night, to indulge in long flights in search of possibility. During the course, they occasionally mistake the wet road for a stretch of water and come to grief.”
At the beginning, I found myself siding with Ginny dragged away from home with no real explanation, chance encounter after chance encounter leading her to correctly assume there’s a method in Selwyn’s madness, but as their journey progressed it was Selwyn I started to side with as Ginny projected her distrust upon Selwyn’s actions.
There’s lots to love in this book. The two main characters are expertly realised with depth and humour as is Ginny’s mother, Meg and the mysterious Bluebird as well as the caravan with its optics and fish in the glass pedestal of a washbasin which, with its shedding of letters and weird plumping is almost another character in its own right. The convoluted car journey mirrors Ginny and Selwyn’s romance, of sorts, and is realised with craft and precision. I loved losing myself in this book with its attention to character and place, real characters and real places, and I’m sure you will do too.