‘Later he will still wonder how it is possible to see someone, actually select from the surroundings, how you can possible know that this woman is important, that you are, in fact, facing your future.’
I love this sentence from ‘The Memory Trap’ almost as much as I hate the word resonate. But I am about to use it, I am and I hate myself for it. But his sentence really resonates for me, as it did for Elliott. He used it to describe his meeting with Zoe, all those years ago in Central Park, New York. He could, though, equally have used it on meeting Beth, whilst walking his dog beside Merri Creek, Melbourne, decades on. He is on sabbatical from Zoe, his brittle, fragile now wife – a woman who, for all of their marriage, has been patently in love with another man. Beth is a koori woman and is at the opposite end of the spectrum to his distant, disengaged spouse. It never takes much to change the projection of a life, a meeting with a stranger by a creek or, as in the case of your scribe, a photo arriving in an envelope. In a novel, jam- packed with intriguing relationships, the one Elliott forms with Beth, later in the book, is the one I relished the most. That creekside encounter is possibly the coming together of two fractured souls, but in its nature it is something not often written of. The man is an American in his fifties and their conversation between strangers leads to one night of sex. Beth is in her sixties, recently bereaved and still grieving. Elliott also grieves for his marriage dominated by another man, the seemingly Helfgottian savant, Ramsey. Beth is soft, luscious and exotic with her dark skin – so earthbound compared with his flighty, distracted Zoe. Although their sex finishes almost as soon as it started, Elliott and Beth spend all future nights entwined in each others arms and sharing a love that needs no words, no demonstration – and it is beautiful.
It is very hard to let go of the couples in this book – they are all flawed, but I wanted so much to continue on with them after I finally turned the last page on their journeys – journeys which, I felt, were so incomplete. I suspect Goldsmith is not the type of author prone to sequels, but this needy reader would sure celebrate one to this gem.
It is like a giant maze – the relationships that gather on Goldsmith’s pages. There’s Zoe – Elliott – Beth; then Zoe – Ramsey – George (the pianist’s stepfather); Ramsey – Sean (his gay brother); then, well you get the drift. Firstly, though, ‘The Memory Trap’ has the marriage of Nina (Zoe’s sister) and hubby Daniel as its main focus, but as it progresses the novel deftly broadens out to minutely examine the aforementioned and more. Early in the piece Daniel gets a fit of the ‘Peter Pans’, leaves Nina for a younger substitute, causing his wife to flee London, accepting a job in her former home town – Yarra City. Her occupation is the facilitation of memorial projects, giving the author ample leeway to riff on the nature of recognising the past. She loves riffing, this author, but it’s never a distraction – her topics all fit seamlessly into the context. And the provenances of her characters sure gives ample opportunity on all manner of subjects.
Speaking of characters, my favourite leaves it till towards the end to emerge from the thumbnail sketch Goldsmith initially gives her. Hayley, daughter to Zoe and Elliott, is a feisty sixteen year old, turning out to be more adult than the adults as she commences a journey of her own. So truncated was her emergence that, as a thread on which to piggyback a future – hint, hint – addition to Goldsmith’s oeuvre, she would be ideal.
Surely Goldsmith is one of our nation’s premier accessible wordsmiths, up there with Winton, Miller and Carroll. I loved her last, ‘Reunion’, and I loved this. Sadly the author lost her long term partner in life, poet Dorothy Porter, back in 2008. I trust the author has found a happy place to be in her life and continues to produce her literary diamonds for eons to come – maybe one being a sequel to this. In conclusion, I can only repeat, ‘If you have ever loved and lost – read it’
Ms Goldsmith’s website = http://andreagoldsmith.com.au/