Thursday, 14 May 2009

Widower's House - John Bayley

The third book in the Iris trilogy is named Widower's House (2001). The three books make up a series of memoirs about Dame Iris Murdoch, as written by her husband, John Bayley. The first title, Iris (1998), tells the story of Iris's life and eventual descent into Alzheimer's disease. Iris and the Friends (1999) involves a more insightful look into life with Alzheimer's as well as memories from Bayley's own childhood. Widower's House picks up where Iris and the Friends leaves off.

At times comedic, Bayley deals head-on with expectations: expectations people have about widowers, how they should behave, how they should be feeling, what they should be doing, what they shouldn't be doing, and so forth. Everyone seems to know what's best for a widower, which Bayley strikes as surprising considering that he freely admitted that he didn't know what he wanted, whether it be a return to the old familiar, yet frustrating, routines of caring for someone with Alzheimer's, or to move on to something new, whatever that might be.

I found parts of Widower's House to ramble, especially the sections where Bayley would contemplate events and by delving into and making comparisons with various literary publications, many of which I am unfamiliar with. Just as I was starting to feel guilty about my 'rambling' judgemet, Bayley seemed to explain himself:
This must be all part of being a widower. I used to be good at marshalling thoughts and sentences, getting what I wanted to say into some kind of order. Now I slip and slide. From one thing to another, without knowing whether it's memory, fantasy, something old or something new. Typical bereavement syndrome?
Very well put! I am now keen to watch the biopic movie, Iris (2002), once again through a different lens. After reading three books about her, I feel that I have been given a tiny insight insight into the goings-on behind this extraordinary author's achievements, yet still know so very little about who she was.

No comments: