Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore

I was first introduced to The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore over at The View From Here literary magazine where I read Mike French’s interview with Paul whom I’m sure as most of my regular readers will know, I now refer to as PB. Now Paul’s interview was pretty sensible but as you are probably aware he often indulges with me in a little bit of British silliness but don’t be fooled Paul’s book is not silly in any way; it is a wonderful piece of literature…..

Thomas Passmore is a family man who has emigrated to Australia in the search of a better life. But his roots are in the England; the England of his childhood and of his ancestors. As his mother lies dying, Thomas travels home but his journey is not just one of duty but also of reconciliation because Thomas’ past is an unclosed chapter in his life; it is strewn with emotional debris. His father’s suicide, the death of his childhood friend and the loss of his first love have followed him to foreign shores but now Thomas must retrace his footsteps, relive his memories, and free himself from his constraints.

The first thing that grabbed me about Paul’s book was the title. From the outset its lyrical quality had me intrigued because there are so few books with long, descriptive titles. But the title is a good indicator of the superb quality of writing in The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore; each word is carefully chosen, each description meticulously constructed giving it an almost poetical feeling in places so the words, like Thomas’s memories, wash over you like gentle surf. This is a book that to be fully appreciated really needs to be read a second time, so that you not just taste the flavour but savour it. Paul’s sheer, almost indulgent, use of words is rare in today’s blockbuster market; it’s rather like savouring a rich dark truffle when all you’ve had previously is cheap milk chocolate. Rather tasty.

The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore works on two levels. There are two stories running parallel. One is of his relationships and his need to find closure with them, especially with his former lover, Kate. But there is also the story of Thomas’ connection with the land of his birth, the roots of his being and his connection to English heritage. This is the England of ancient stone circles, of worn paths and of aged spreading oaks.

The novel switches between what is seemingly the past and present. There are dream like sequences too, so sometimes the reader is left wondering how much of what is happening is truth or reality and what, if anything, is happening to Thomas. His life seems to be flashing before him and as the book progresses one wonders if this really is the case. Is there more to Thomas’s journey than mere recollection? The dream- like sequences too have an ethereal quality and Kate, the long lost lover, is also almost ethereal in concept. Even at 18 she is seemingly flawless; beautiful, intelligent, wise beyond her years, as well as being a fantastic lover. As a woman I felt Kate was perhaps too perfect although her perfection fits well with the novel and explains Thomas’ continued adulation.

As Thomas remembers his past he recalls a hiking trip with Kate during which the strength of Thomas’ bond with the land of his birth and its ancient history becomes apparent. It is obvious that his early childhood curiosity for flints and fossils has developed into much a deeper connection; Thomas may have left England but he is still connected to his past; not just by the his immediate family but by that of his forefathers.

But what Thomas has yet to learn is that he must accept the past, especially the loss of his lover and his father so that a chapter of his life can be closed. He must merge with his past and his heritage. Not so much that a new chapter can be opened but in order that he can becomes a richer, happier man at peace with himself. This is very much the essence of the book for Thomas, metaphorically, lies buried under the snow of the title and underneath there is a new man waiting to emerge.

There was a point in the book when I wondered if Thomas was indeed going to change, the snow melt, and the green shoots appear that would bring about his rebirth or whether I had been mistaken in my assumptions. But as the book moved towards the end, Kate begins to personify all of Thomas’ past and finally in his dream world she becomes Katelin…an oak tree representing not just the past but also the present. In a moving, beautifully written, sequence Katelin and Thomas, also visualized as a tree, merge together...

Katelin steps closer to me then; face to face. She pushes her arms carefully through my foliage to embrace me, noses through the leaves until her nose is touching mine, her tongue stroking my lips…She lifts one leg and wraps it around me, and every part of me enters her, grows through her, until the warmth that’s running through me is rising in her through her body too, and it becomes pointless to consider that we were ever separate or could ever be separate again. And why did I never know this before?

“Forever and ever,” we think.

And so the greening is complete. Thomas is reconciled, his redemption complete. His separate, incomplete lives have become one.
The Snowing and Greening is a fabulous book. It’s a story of love, loss and redemption and so beautifully written. Frankly, I’m amazed it’s taken Paul so long to be published and I’m really looking forward to reading his next novel because, like Thomas, this is just the beginning.

In a day or two I’ll be reporting on The Book Club's meeting to discuss The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore, Mr M’s (Yes, MR M) foray into publishing (A tale of woe) and Master Jacob’s foray into baking. (A tale of horror.)

Copyright Jane Turley 2008

Pictures of the oak leaves and winter scene at night have been produced by kind permisson of Copyright Free Photos, Winter Song (trees covered in snow ) and Lost in the the clouds (forest in mist) have been produced by fellow blogger Eddie McHugh over at The Cliff Walk, the final picture is by Mrs T.

13 comments:

  1. Thomas Passmore has branches??

    I love stories that flow from one place to the next - including dream sequences. You need to stay foucused, and the subject never becomes bland.

    This one sounds a bit HOT!

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  2. Ah you see Speedy towards the end of the book Thomas comes to visualize himself and Kate as trees...these are the trees which are symbolic of his heritage (In my opinion) and they begin to grow and blossom and merge together. It's symbolic of the change in him and his acceptance of eveything has happened before and how he can grow as an individual. There is an added twist at the end but I didn't want to give the whole game away.

    It's a very descriptive book so if you like that style you'll enjoy it; if you prefer the full frontal approach it may not be your cup of tea.

    Yep, there is some sex but nothing too explicit! So there's no need to get your bookmark ready!

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  3. As soon as your site appeared I noticed that you've given it a face-lift. New color. Green! Very thorough review of the book. You've enhanced it without knowing it. Nicely done!

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  4. Love this review! And your ...

    "it’s rather like savouring a rich dark truffle when all you’ve had previously is cheap milk chocolate. Rather tasty."

    Brilliant!

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  5. Now Mr I (cough, cough) I hate to tell you but I changed the colour deliberately to go with the book! But I rather like it, so I think I'm going to stick with it for a quite a while. I like green - it's meant to be a restful colour...maybe it's because it's the colour of nature. My blog was a lighter green some time back but I think I prefer the darker one. What do you think? I'm not really a Barbie kind of girl so pink is out.....

    Mike,

    Well Mrs T has to get her obligatory mention of chocolate in otherwise live isn't worth living...

    Glad you like the review guys!

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  6. What do I think? I think I'm green with envy. You knew that was coming. I suspected your creative juices were flowing and you changed the color to go with the book title. :) Nicely done. It sets the mood. The dark green is good. Throw in some red and you're set for the Holidays! In January, I'll be looking for the mint green? Got any? Got any chocolate to go with that mint? Now we're talking.

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  7. Mr I,

    Yes some red decorations would be kinda nice and Christmassy - only wish I knew how to do all that technical stuff some people can do; I've so much more to learn!

    Hey, for a moment I thought the vulcan mind meld wasn't working!I like the whole visual experience of blogs as well as absorbing the writing... which is why I changed the colours to go with the book...

    Mmmmm... I like mint and chocolate! I had an after dinner mint chocolate tonight whilst dining out with the Book Club ladies; it was yummy!

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  8. Fantastic review, Jane -- thanks. And, ye gods, the pictures you've used are stunning. Love 'em. So appropriate. Although you keep changing them, there's been four so far which might've been plucked straight from the way I imagined them. Exactement!

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  9. I do like your review of this book and must look for a copy . Makes me want to read it .

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  10. So glad you like it Paul. It really is a good book that you can be very proud of. I'm looking forward to the next one too because I know it's not a sequel. TSGTP is a stand alone novel and I like that way.

    Hi Mrs G,

    Yes, find a copy; it's well worth the read.

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  11. Great review Mrs T. Yes The Snowing and Greening is tremendously well written.

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  12. Terrific review Jane...the evocation of the essence of the story comes through loud and clear..

    This most certainly sounds like my 'type' of reading!

    Gret work!

    e

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  13. Very lovely review Jane. I'm completely sold on the book as I love lyrical writing, symbolism and metaphor. I belong to a small reading group here in France that meets once monthly. I'm definitely putting this one on our list for early in the new year. I'll buy it for myself as one of those self-indulgent Christmas presents.

    Very well done to Paul as well! It's great to see a fellow British writer coming up trumps. I'm full of admiration.

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