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.
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...
“Forever and ever,” we think.
And so the greening is complete. Thomas is reconciled, his redemption complete. His separate, incomplete lives have become one.
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.)