Sunday, 11 January 2009

The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson

A swirling mass of ideas...gloriously poetic

I wish they were my words, but they're not. They come from a review in Time Out and are listed on the back of the book. But I couldn't think of any better way to describe this book so I decided to steal it!

But everything is trial sized; tread-on-me tiny or blurred-out-of-focus huge. There are leaves that have grown as big as cities, and there are birds that nest in cockleshells.On the White sand there are long-toed claw prints deep as nightmares, and there are rock pools in hand-hollows finned by invisible fish.
Trees like skyscrapers, and housing as many. Grass the height of hedges, nuts the swell of pumpkins. Sardines that would take two men to land them. Eggs,pale-blue-shelled,each the weight of a breaking universe.
And, underneath, mushrooms soft and small as a mouse ear. A crack like a cut, and inside a million million microbes wondering what to do next. Spores that wait for the wind and never look back.
Moss that is concentrating on being green.

These aren't my words either. These are the opening paragraphs of the novel and display the poeticism in a way I couldn't describe. The language of this novel just urges you on to keep reading, though this may also be partly to do with a lack of real chapters, although the book is split into four sections.

The first part of the novel is set in the world of an extremely advanced civilisation, although that world is dying and there is a mission afoot to colonise a newly discovered planet, known as Planet Blue. In this world all food is manufactured or cloned, humans are genetically fixed at their chosen age, money no longer exists and other such things which echo things happening in our own world, although in an extreme form. Our guides through this section of the book are a character named Billie Crusoe who is seen as a different because she lives on a farm, eats real meat, which is viewed as unhealthy and stills uses a pencil and paper. She ends up on the spaceship to planet blue which is seen as a new start for humanity. Also on the ship is an advanced robot named Spike. The only issue with this new world are some big scary monsters that sound remarkably like dinosaurs! Hmmm.

This first section is mainly science fiction based but from this point on it takes a different route altogether. We move from this futuristic world to Easter Island in the 1700's, and then to earth in the present (or near future). Each time we are guided through by characters named Billie and Spike and this becomes the central crux of the novel. Winterson is dealing with issues of the permanence of soul and consciousness,with references to Buddhist and Karmic Philosophies.

This is where the "swirling mass of ideas" comes in. From issues about the world and not learning from our mistakes to deep ideas about repeating worlds and souls continuing through ages and repeating the same mistakes. And I'm aware I'm not doing this book justice but I find it almost impossible to clarify my thoughts in any meaningful way. Partly because it is difficult to think of the words to express what i thought, and partly because its difficult to discuss the full meaning of the book without giving away the whole plot! I think I've probably given too much away already.

I think I'm waffling now so I'm going to stop and just say that this is an excellent book that everybody should read, even if my review is a bit vague and wishy-washy! It reminds me a bit of Cloud Atlas, and I will probably go back to re-read that, as well as previous Jeanette Winterson.

1 comment:

J. Kaye said...

"...with references to Buddhist and Karmic Philosophies." I think my husband would definitely enjoy this book! :)