Thursday 20 October 2011

The Slightly Bruised Glory of Cedar B. Hartley

Just as it can be hard taking on a childhood favourite, it can be hard deciding when to tackle a sequel. Say, you've read a book recently that you've loved. And then you find there's a sequel. You don't really have that much time in your heavily regimented reading life, but you know you want to fit it in. Should it be soon, to climb on the shoulders of the wondrous gem you've just finished? Or will it be too samey? What if it's not as good, will the shine start to dull on your new favourite? It's a quandary alright.

But being the brave soul that I am I decided to strike while Cedar's iron was still hot, and jump on to the second Cedar B. Hartley book.

Cedar has grown up a little since her first book. Although if I was over fifty I'd say "Now is that really Cedar B. Hartley? My, hasn't she grown up."

Cedar is facing some new challenges in this book. She's still mad on Kite, although he has done a rather dastardly thing and moved to Albury to join the Flying Fruit Fly Circus. Understandably Cedar is devastated. But then two new people come into her life, Aunt Squeezy, and the mysterious girl down the street.

Aunt Squeezy has been away living in India, and has done a lot of thinking about Buddhist beliefs whilst there. We get lots of well-expressed thoughts from Cedar, Aunt Squeezy and sometimes Cedar's mum (although most of the time she's at work)

In the end, we moved the chairs in the living room and she showed me some yoga and I showed her some balances and Mum took photos and drank wine. She said wine was just as relaxing as yoga but required less effort. 

And there's still wonderful rambling Cedar passages:

I was suspicious. I felt she was stealing my feelings. My unique feelings. She was flouncing round, tipping spices into a big pot of lentils and stealing my feelings. It was kind of great having her around because she cooked food all the time, and since Mum was always at work and too tired to cook, and Barnaby only knew how to make spaghetti with a can of tomatoes, and I only made cheese and tomato Brevilles, it was exciting to have someone making a big deal about meals. She even made porridge in the morning, with dates in it and grated apple and almonds on top. But, best of all, she was always up for a talk. And I mean a  real talk. A chewing and burrowing and blazing-up kind of talk, not just a how-was-your-day kind of talk. She and I got to talking about real things. I'd never met someone who wanted to talk about life as much as I did; about the big stuff like love and difference and hope and lentils and the nervous system and bigotry. 

The mysterious girl turns out to be a refugee from Afghanistan, and the girls discuss their lives in the two countries.

"I feel bad, you know, because you have got such a good country and you do not feel grateful. Here people are so fortunate. They get to have everything. I mean, what else do you want?"
 I can't answer her because I know there is lots that I want, and suddenly it doesn't seem right to be wanting when I can go and play in my street whenever I choose. As we walk back to our street, I can't get her words, what else do you want? out of my head. I think of me wanting to be a circus star, wanting it even more than ever now that the possibility of joining a real circus is here. I even think of Marnie always wanting to look pretty and great, and Mum wanting one day to buy a house, and Barnaby wanting to play his songs to the world. And then I think of all the girls in Afghanistan who just want to be able to go outside and play. It confuses me. Maybe wanting something is just what you do. It's not really about what you have or what you need, it's about something else. 

Refugee politics and the inequities of the modern world are all dealt with rather well.  And Aunt Squeezy is there to give the more adult, Buddhist slant on things.

She said there're two ways to make people richer: one is to give them more money and the other is to teach them how to desire less. 

This book certainly gives us plenty to think about, as well as more of a story pushing us forward than the first Cedar book, The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley. I read it in two days! Both books make you want to read even more of Martine Murray's work.


Vicki said...

I've never heard of this author, but the book sounds interesting.

bermudaonion said...

I've never heard of Cedar but she sounds delightful!

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Louise,

I have to say that I intensely dislike books where the ending just doesn't happen, in obvious anticipation of the sequel which is to follow.

I like books to have a beginning, a middle and an end. Then, if there is to be a sequel, the stories can link together, but both books are able to work as stand alone stories.

This especially important for a 'numpty' such as myself, who always manages to read a series of books out of sequence!