Fig and The Flute Player by Christine Harrison

A Review by Charlotte Penny ‘Fig and The Flute Player’ recently launched by Ceredigion publishers, Parthian, was originally published in 1994 under the title ‘Airy Cages’. The retitling and re-launch seem absolutely right for this timeless love story by local author Christine Harrison. If one has little background knowledge of Russian history to refer to, then this story could be imagined to be set in any decade of the latter half of the 20th Century or perhaps even earlier. I can’t help but imagine the opening train station scene taking place in the black and white world of ‘Brief Encounter’  and the language, particularly the dialogue used by Harrison , spare and yet rich takes me back even further to the Modernists of the 20s and 30s, reminiscent perhaps of Katherine Mansfield or even Virginia Woolf. It took me a good while to get into the novel as my rational brain refused to accept this sweeping love affair founded on a chance meeting between two unlikely individuals. But at some point my rational brain was lulled and subdued by the quality and breadth of the narrative. I went from being cynical to being glued to the text and when it ended I was bereft and craved more. No spoilers here but the conclusion satisfied me, for the last third of the novel I rooted for the protagonist, Maisie, every step of the way. In some sense this romance is like a fictional version of ‘Men are From Mars and Women are From Venus’. We’re allowed privileged access to the inner workings of Maisie and Michael’s hearts and minds; we’re enabled to understand them in ways that it takes them a long, tumultuous time to understand themselves and each other. Harrison’s understanding of the human condition is expansive and the narrative oozes with her wisdom, she is not afraid to explore the contradictions of desire and nor to renounce any easy or traditional ending. The backdrops of London, rural Ireland and Russia are delightful and engaging, as are the secondary characters who weave an interconnected web of family and friendship around Maisie and Michael and all of whom are themselves navigating their own journeys of love, loss and transformation. An emotionally intelligent and intellectual novel full of deep poetics and simple detail; this is a sophisticated and cultured story of adventure and discovery. Read it, share it and fall in love. Christine Harrison is an award winning writer of short fiction, for more information and to buy ‘ Fig and The Flute Player’ visit www.parthianbooks.com

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