Thursday, February 5, 2009

Forty Seven Roses

Forty-Seven Roses is a memoir with which I could connect because of what it has in common with my unfinished novel. In Forty Seven Roses, Peter Sheridan, in a very personal way, explores his parents' romance, which was dogged for forty seven years by another woman. In my novel, a teenager goes in search of his father whom he's never met. Ricardo's quest leads him to understand his parents (and the circumstances of his birth) in a way that liberates him from feelings of insecurity and the sense of having been abandoned by the two most important people in the world. Coincidentally, I've also recently read another novel- The Pursuit of Happiness by, Douglas Kennedy in which the protangonist comes face to face with the nature of the relationship between her parents.

Anyway, to the memoir at hand; the element of an adult snooping around (to me that's what Peter actually does) is interesting to me. He sometimes goes off (unbeknownst to his mother) to England to talk privately with Doris, to see what he could find out about what really went on with his now deceased father and this woman who travels across the sea to come lay forty seven roses on his father's grave. Why is it so important to Peter, a grown man with children of his own, to dredge up all this stuff that is in the past? Why not leave well enough alone, considering that his dad was with his mom all these years, not with Doris. And what difference does it make anyway?

Of course his father's life matters to him. He might have a half sister out there and that's got to be important. His mother's grief (and some guilt she's carrying around with it) is in some way related to forty seven years of competition with another woman. He shares his mom's grief, so it does help for him to understand it. And also tied up in all of this is his own grieving, and his ability to move on, to forgive where he must and forget where he should and be clear on the values he wants to shape his own life.

The novel is not at all centred around Peter Sheridan, as I have made it seem. It's just that it is Peter's story that caught my interest most. Strangely enough, the novel is not centred around his dad, nor his mom. The central focus of the novel as you can tell by the title, is the other woman, Doris. I know it's Doris' story because Sheridan allows her to tell large portions of the story herself. Something he does not allow Ma or Da; we only get their side of story through Peter.

Doris has the misfortune of falling in love with a man she cannot have- for two reasons, one, he's somebody else's and two, he is Irish (at a time when English and Irish did not blend). She further has the misfortune (or fortune?) of being so smitten, so obsessed, so possessed, that she cannot love another man. And so she remains faithful (in a manner of speaking) for a lifetime. I wouldn't say Forty Seven Roses is a novel I would read again, but it sure makes me want to read 44: A Dublin Memoir and Every Inch of Her by the same Dublin born author.


Fly Girl said...

This novel sounds interesting. I like layered novels with more than one storyline. I'm currently finishing Brick Lane, which weaves the lives of two Bengali sisters and their various connections together. I think dredging up your parents past does offer a lot of insight into how you were nurtured. What time period does the story take place in?

Stunner said...

Sometime I wish I could take up a book and read... just not in my nature, I love pretty pictures :)

Jacqueline Smith said...

Fly Girl,
The novel takes place mostly in modern day, when Peter's father dies, but it does a lot of backward looking into his growing up years back when the conflict between the catholics and protestants was really intense. In one sense it is a historical novel but I wasn't paying much attention to the historical aspect. It mentions that Doris's Father was a Black Tanner (or something of the sort) which made it more unlikely for a union with an Irish person. Doris also went to Ireland frequently at great personal risk, she could easly have been taken as a spy and killed. In terms of actual year let me not hazard any guesses, but take it that Peter is now a grown man reviewing a 47 year rleationship which started maybe a lttle before he was born.

Another aspect of the novel that kinda got lost on me was the Irish Humour, I'm sure a lot of it was insiders', but what the heck, I guess when non-West Indians read our novels they probably miss out on half the fun too. He did mention some aspect of Irish culture which got infused with ours because of the colonial connection with Great Britain. For instance I was smack amused when Da quoted the words of Two Little Dicky Birds in a letter to Doris. Do your remember it?

Two little dicky birds
sat upon a wall
one named Peter, one named Paul
Fly away Peter
Fly away Paul
Come back Peter
Come back Paul!

Hey Stunner, your photos are almost always gorgeous, I especially enjoyed those ones you did at Truck Fest and Kingston Restaurant Week. Even those everyday ones are nice, like the one you took of your liquor collection.

It's ok not to care for novels; lots of smart people don't, and lots of dunce heads read them voraciously!

But I am curios about your male perspective on once in a life time love. Is there such a thing? Or can people love intensely as often they want to?

Louise said...

This sounds interesting.When my widowed grandmother died, there were two mystery men eyeing each other warily over her grave. Not even my mother could tell me who they were or what they had meant to my grandmother...the stuff of novels.

Daisy Soap Girl said...

Sounds like an interesting book. One that I may want to read. I recently found out that my Grandfather now deceased, was married before he married my Grandmother, deceased also. I am mildly interested in finding out what happened. But if I never find out it won't bother me. Human nature I guess.

Ruthibelle said...

That sounds really interesting, especially if it sheds light on why any woman would, for forty-seven years, pine and long (almost to the point of what sounds like self-destruction) for something she cannot ever have...

I'd read it. Did you say who the author was? No wait. I'll google it... Google the panacea for all my definition/information woes, lol!

Sounds like a god book tho, thanks for sharing.

Ruthibelle said...

Oh dear... Sheridian is the author! Thought he was just a character. Yikes.

Jacqueline Smith said...

Sheridan is the author, and the novel is a memoir about his parents and this other woman. So yes, he's a character inside there too!

Jdid said...


Abeni said...

Have you ever read anything by Anthony Winkler? I just read Dog War and was in stitches

Jacqueline Smith said...

I've read The Painted Canoe with similar effect!

Will said...

hey... i've been lurking around your blog for a while now without actually saying anything... anyways... :-) i gave you an award... it's at the bottom of this post:


Jacqueline Smith said...

Hey thanks a million Will, I'll be back to blogging soon. True-true.

Oh said...

Just stopped by - glad I did. Book sounds...interesting. And it's brand new to me - I love hearing about titles I am completely unaware.

zooms said...

My Grandparents are buried with another man whose name is on the tombstone. He is not a family member and no-one alive knows who he was.

Missing you, hope all is well.

Jamaican Dawta said...

Forty seven years! She good! My interest is piqued. Hurry up and finish yours. :-)