Posted by: Ele Quigan | September 11, 2013

Flight behaviour (Flight behavior) – Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behaviour Continuing the theme of ‘What I just read on holiday’ next up – we have one of my favourite authors, Barbara Kingsolver – Flight Behaviour.

I actually bought this on a previous holiday, but never opened it. Since getting a kindle it’s been relegated to a shelf, having a Kindle has made several kilos difference to my holiday luggage.

In general, like all of her books, it’s written well. Female protagonist, slightly sad/dark surroundings, with an added feature of a climate change effect, essentially causing hundreds of thousands of butterflies to join the family farm.

Parts of it frustrated me, particularly the start, where the main protagonist is out, seeking an affair – and all that entails.

I don’t know why, but that part didn’t feel realistic. It didn’t feel genuine. Rather than talk about an affair – to explain how I feel about it, I’m going to talk about crushes.

They exist. For stupid reasons, or no reason at all. In silly places, in times so unrealistic it’s almost like the stress of it all causes some kind of ridiculous reaction that really makes no sense. Sometimes they’re big, lasting years. Sometimes they’re little, lasting an evening – when you’re so captivated by someone – and wake up in the morning with a pounding hangover wondering why the hell you thought that random person was so interesting in the first place.

Crushes can be explained, talked about, laughed at – take the slightly ridiculous game of ‘Fuck, Chuck or Marry’ – often played at an agency I used to work at, always at after work drinks. I thought I’d mastered the game, choosing random superfluous names that made no sense at all – in the hope that within the shameful giggles between 3 or 4 of us huddled together, egging each other on, with the occasional roar of laughter at an unexpected answer – that my ‘secret’ answer would never be uttered.

But I did. One day, too drunk to stand, I blurted it out to a friend of mine. Who then repeated this to someone else who obviously thought it was one of the funniest things I’d ever ever ever said. She will NEVER let me live it down. I don’t blame her, it’s hilarious. (Harca, if you’re reading this – love you dearly but I’ll never forgive you for remembering and Mahoney-Jones for wheedling that out of me.)

Crushes are exactly that, like a flighty schoolgirl silly thing, that’s mindless and sometimes crazy, but can still make your heart flutter. One of my annoying traits is that I’m a blusher. Yep, when I get embarrassed I go scarlet, from my chest to my forehead, that’s one red face. My voice cracks. My legs shake. I suddenly find my feet far more interesting to look at than anything else. Crushes can be built solely on a single look. Catching someones eye, across a table, across the street, across a club. Stealing a sideways glance. An infectious smile. So lets add those two features together – You can imagine what it’s like if I ever have a crush. Incredibly, horrendously, horribly, embarrassing.

I caught someone’s eye across a room once. Nearly walked into them in fact. One of those immediate crushes I’ll never forget, dark eyes, dark hair – I’m sure he still exists somewhere… Sounds wonderful until I realised I could barely get a word out. Thank god for feet, as always, for providing something else to focus on.

I had to sit next to a crush for an afternoon at Uni once. Oh good god it was the worst. I was suddenly so focussed on work it was UNBELIEVABLE. I got through more that afternoon than I had in the 3 days prior. My heart was beating so loud I thought I could hear it through my headphones. I was trying to do everything but look around, typing, – and after 2 hours of torture I left early before I looked even more of an idiot. I could feel how flushed and unsettled I was, the physical response so much worse than even thinking about formulating some kind of conversation.

Crushes aren’t just clandestine conversations, (referring further to the book here with secret calls and texts), they can be enveloping obsessions – momentary, fleeting, but powerful. I felt none of that from the book. At all.

Some of the crushes I’ve had can be overwhelming. Ebbing and flowing . Exhausting until they fizzle out. This book made them feel simplistic. Easily cast aside. Unimportant. Disconnected.

Sure it was the ‘affair’ that caused our protagonist to walk in the first place, but then that was all dropped and barely referred to after that. It made no sense?

There are lots of other elements/themes of the book that were interesting, wilful ignorance (or at least lack of education causing wilful ignorance), climate change, poverty – the slow death not only of the butterflies but also surrounding relationships (zomg uber metaphor right there) but I just didn’t feel it.

I usually LOVE her books. ‘The Lacuna’ is the greatest book I’ve ever read. ‘The Poisonwood bible’ was one of my favourite books for years, but this? Sadly, a great disappointment. Maybe I was just too depressed to really feel it, or maybe I just spent the book in ghosts of crushes past. I’ll probably re-try it in years to come to see if I can capture what I missed, but this just wasn’t for me at this time.


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