You know when they say something is too beautiful, too close to the heart it hurts. That is how I see this book. In piercing waves that could be brought only by sharp truths and bittersweet recollection, this book owned me. Dusty Answers is nostalgia in its purest form, of memories stirring with fleeting delights and drawn-out melancholy.
It may be that its wistfulness is what makes it appealing. Its characters remain with you (and I could almost not let go of the last page). It enthralls not with the plot but in the beauty of Lehmann’s prose and how she draws scenes, the characters and their sentiments. She captures on point those young delightful years of childhood and that seeking sense of belonging in each of us.
Dusty Answer is a coming of age story about a solitary girl whose journey is at best a gradual course to the threshold of adulthood and realizations. It is growing pains as we call it and naturally passing to this rite entails the taste of regret and pain and reluctant absolution.
Lehmann’s writing style (and I can’t get over it) reflects an idyllic atmosphere but tainted with shades of melancholy. I could get lost in her descriptions and wistful musings. She draws out the emotion and expressions of each character through their gestures, body language and, in some cases, their silence and unspoken words; which hits far deeper than mere utterances. It is a kind of book that gives one a different take on every re-reading (and I myself can’t wait to do but as their presence lingers still that I could hardly get around to it).
It was published in 1927 and in the following years, the book seemed to go out of the radar. I’m quite grateful to pick this book in an arbitrary chance, as I dig through forgotten modern classics, especially British literature (like Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Taylor, and other colleagues). Apparently, this particular book was mentioned in Ian McEwan’s Atonement (which I obviously haven’t read yet) and enjoyed a little spurt of recognition once again in the late 20th century.
Judith’s world seemed so distant now but the sentiments on her journey to womanhood still rings true at present time. Near the end, in her knowing eyes and stance, I almost mourned the child she was just like in all of us. This one will definitely have a place in my bookshelf.
This review is part of my original post from our book blog, Deluged with Books.