The Symposium: Swann

Alright…so, I have been introduced to and entered into the lives of the Nadeau librarian, Rose ; Sarah, the feminist writer; Morton, Mary Swann’s biographer; and Frederic, the retired journalist and publisher who publishes Swann’s only book.  I related with Sarah’s meticulous and thoughtful writing of letters.  I suffered for Rose whose dedication goes unnoticed and suffers so quietly on her own.  I admired Frederic’s love for his wife, Hilde, and fell in love with Hilde’s independence within the relationship.  I hurt for Morton who falls in love with illusions. I have spent so much time with these characters that they are real to me.  And now…I find myself at the symposium where all four lives will collide.  The final chapter is written in the format of a movie script.  Just last night, I was given the setting and today I’m on to the script.  Intrigued…

From what I’ve read of others, this is Carol Shield’s weak point with this novel.   I am just happy that Mary Swann’s life will be honoured to some extent because, although completely absent from this book, her poetry has created a consistent link with the four characters’ motivations.

Blood pronounces my name
Blisters the day with shame
Spends what little I own,
Robbing the hour, rubbing the bone. 

I am delighting in this book and feel consistently impressed by Carol Shields, her writing and her way of living life.  She contributed so much to our world by celebrating the common person, particularly shedding light on the every day thoughts and efforts of ordinary women.

Go for long walks,
indulge in hot baths,
question your assumptions,
be kind to yourself,
live for the moment,
loosen up,
curse the world,
count your blessings,
just let go,
just be.
Carol Shields

Swann by Carol Shields

Swann by Carol Shields

I’m engrossed in the novel, Swann by Carol Shields and because I am, it is moving slowly.  I am eating up and treasuring every single word, especially where the character development is involved.  In fact, the characters are so real to me that one day I found myself doing an internet search for the poet, Mary Swann.  She is so elusive and Shields writes Mary’s life as an isolated woman in rural Canada, so believably.  Mary Swann is someone the reader wants to know, especially as bits and pieces of her memory disappear…a journal…a dictionary…a photograph.  For me these become symbols of her tragic and brutal ending.  What motivates Mary to write?  Where does she find the words?  Poignant.  Nostalgic.  I absolutely celebrate the act of turning on my reading light, pulling up the covers and spending time with a good book!

Maggie Kawalerczak reviews Swann here…I think she is ‘bang on’ with this particular review.  I chuckled as I read, In fact, if I may generalize, there is certain “Canadianness” to the material.  This, I believe to be an accurate assessment of this ‘mystery’.  I am consistently drawn to Canadian content and respond to regional settings (landscapes I know so well), the sorts of characters that reside in these settings and that particular style/expression of Canadian authors and their words.  What is that particularity?  The same goes for Canadian film, doesn’t it?

Mary Swann, herself, is an enigma.  I am captivated by this book!