Chapter 50 – Beginning
The end of the novel (bar the Epilogue) and the beginning of a new life. As near perfect as perfect can be inasmuch as revenge is spurned and repentance embraced, in more than one context...and in this world of ‘Odalisque’ where Surrenity seems the more natural love, a life born from two women, born via pain and happiness, is the perfect ending. An unconditional (un-footnoted) catharsis.
Again quotable quotes teem so I need to restrict them:
No revenge, in all my life, had left me happy for more than a brief period.
“Mistress, you honour me as no slave was ever honoured before. Nothing would give me greater joy than to carry your child. If I may be allowed the surgery, I’ll take the chances gladly.”
“My only worry is how Tuerquelle would feel about having a person as a half sister.”
This book’s ground-breaking concepts also teem and insulate us against easy condemnation of things we think we don’t understand but this book often makes us understand:
When night came, aware that this was likely to be my last time for several weeks, Passibelle, Honeyminge, Gusibelle and I all shared Lady Isobel’s bed. Group sex involving a person and four slaves requires a great deal of care, if no one is to feel neglected – to be candid, it usually seems more trouble than it’s worth. On this occasion, I was glad to have the complexities of four other people’s feelings with which to contend, as a way of taking my mind from the forthcoming operation.
Much gynaecological sense of suspense and risk in this chapter, and impending destiny:
Smiling over my shoulder at my friend and my bond locker, I passed through the front door, and down the steps. Thence my way took me through gardens in full flower, and past Fiona who, as always, sang wordlessly to the plants. A green painted door in a red brick wall, on which clematis ran riot, took me into the quiet of the vet’s compound. Elisa Downtree sat on the step of the whitewashed surgery – the venue for my more intrusive gynaecological examinations.
This passage below is very wincingly empathic. A definite highlight of prose.
Awakening to bright morning sunlight, Giggli was handing me the medicine glass again – this time, it tasted bitter. Fully immersed in dream, now, nothing around me had the air of reality. When the next dose of cordial arrived – it could have been seconds or weeks later – my mouth seemed too swollen to receive it. Making a supreme effort, I gulped the liquid down – after that, oblivion took me.
Then I awoke, seemingly seconds later, without any definite sensations. My first thought was that Eliza Downtree had changed her mind, and not performed the operation. Lying on my back, I wondered what was happening until, levering myself up, my belly came into view. A large piece of blood-soaked gauze, taped into position, revealed that the vet had cut me open.
Not long afterwards, the pain began – as though someone had danced upon my stomach, whilst my arms were ripped from my shoulders and inexpertly replaced.
Some of our favourite characters rally round with reminders that this is an alternate world (but one that often seems realler than our own):
Lisa-Louise, Jane, Diqui and Barguin all appeared at my bedside – and even Tipsi came, taking a break from her duties at the Imperial Spa. Jane, who was working on gynozoa science, told me a great deal of how I could carry Lady Isobel’s baby, but unfortunately most of it was beyond my comprehension. Lisa-Louise’s studies were taking her into an entirely different field – to do with the properties of light and chemicals, and how they could be combined to make images in an art, lost since the Old Time, called photography. While grateful to be told about such things, I wasn’t sorry that my other visitors restricted themselves to topics that were easy to understand.
And this wonderful sentiment in the context of the novel:
No symptom could dent my delight – carrying my mistress’ daughter is the most wonderful thing in the world.
The last paragraph is perfect, of course, but I was about to identify a possible typo (‘harmonise’ to ‘harmonised’) until I realised that the present tense subsumes the past tense at this point. A master-stroke. Or should I say a mistress-stroke?
A moment ago, sitting at this desk, pen upon the paper, I felt my new daughter stir inside me. On the other side of the room, Tuerquelle, Passibelle and Hartlisse, flicking feather dusters at picture frames and ornaments, harmonise with a wordless melody. Beyond the half open window, rain has left glistening droplets on nasturtium leaves, now sunshine breaks through the clouds. Perched on a fork handle, a cock blackbird calls – four high pitched squeaks, before a burst of glorious song.
Insertion of ‘to’:
“Another was a licence have gynozoa produced
Didn’t understand this;
The University is where they’ve done to the gynozoa research, mistress.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with this split infinitive but I thought you should be made aware of it:
something it seemed better to neither confirm nor deny.
Word docs of the actual chapters are freely available to readers of this blog.
The links to all Chapter comments by me are here: http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2008/06/odalisque.html