Sunday, June 24, 2007

Human frailties

I have just finished reading Death of a Murderer by Rupert Thomson. It is a novel where an 'ordinary' person (Billy the policeman) is asked to guard the dead body of one of society's notorious child killers - a monster (Myra Hindley in fact). In order to explore these notions of our own moral dilemmas and our 'dark' sides he uses a number of experiences form Billy's pretty avereage life and includes a daughter aged 8 with DS. Her mother confesses to sometimes wishing her daughter dead. Billy also addresses some of his challenges as her parent - not always accurate (eg when he tells his friend that her tongue is bigger) but not completely outrageous either. A more pessimistic protrayal - no doubt to achieve his thematic exploration of human weakness. What is it that separates us from people like Mrya Hindley?

THe last page has this rather beautiful scene when he is supervising his daughter Emma in the bath (as a parent of a child with DS I can't help but have wished he'd peppered the book a bit more with such observations)

"Later when he pulled out the plug, she turned around so that her head was near the taps. Lying on her stomach, she watched the water disappear down the plughole. She was leaning on elbows, with her face propped on her hands, and her air of concentration was intense, as if she were studying some rare phenomenon.
She would never study anything, of course.
He had wondered then what would become of her. What would he and Sue decide to do about her future? Would she alwyas live at home, with them? Who would care for her when they were dead?
Or would she, with her damaged heart, die first?
He had lain his forearms along the edge of hte bath and rested his chin on top. He, too, watched as the bath slowly emptied itself. He noticed how her head revolved ever so slightly, echoing the miniature whirlpool that formed in the water as it was sucked down the hole. The strange noises that it made, all sqwarks and cackles ...
At last Emma peered up at him.
'Gone,' she said.
Looking at his daughter stretched out in the bath, he noticed how strong her body was, and how well made, her skin so sleek and rosy, so unblemished.
'You're beuatiful,' he said.
She climbed out of the bath and stood on the mat in front of him, arms held away from her sides.
'Dry me.'
How she loved to issue commands! He reached for the towel that was warming on the radiator.
As he knelt in front of her, rubbing her legs, she placed on hand on the top of his head, then she leaned down and looked right into his face.
'Daddy,' she said."

and that is the end of the book - so while I am glad that my parenting of Hannah has been a much more optimistic expereince than Billy's - I would recommendc this book - it isn't great but the first half particularly is really entrancing - Thomson's character of Billy is wonderful.

1 comment:

Anne said...

What a beautiful passage. Nicky has a way of noticing things that make us want to slow down and notice them too. It's hard to put into words but this passage does.

Also, I'm assuming the picture in the side bar is you as a child. Hannah looks so much like you.