'Moments of Stillness': A Review of This September Sun

'Long after I read it, there are moments of stillness when I begin to think about the book and how much of myself I see in it.'
Bryony Rheam

The day I finally finished reading Bryony Rheam's This September Sun, sometime in September, it was the one book I wondered about how I got to the end, why it ended, and why wasn’t I a little slower as I read it.

This September Sun is the most profound book I’ve read this year and for an author’s first book, I can only begin to think how this work can claim to be fiction. Long after I read it, there are moments of stillness when I begin to think about the book and how much of myself I see in it. Its ability to linger this long is an experience I’m learning to come to terms with.

I’ve read books: Enid Blyton’s Malory Tower series ensured I went to boarding school in a bid to relive the stories. I read another Enid Blyton book about a girl who was a gypsy, who lived in a caravan and was part of a travelling circus. I’m not even going to begin to state how, at one point, I thought my parents should sell the house we lived in, buy a caravan so we could travel and possibly join a circus too. Then there was Kaine Agary’s Yellow Yellow, from whose pages I got the name Binaebi and gave the name to my son when he was birthed. Some books leave a lasting impression. Some books will never be forgotten. This September Sun falls into that category.

The story revolves around two characters Ellie and her grandmother Evelyn. Ellie, an only child, is a loner who has more adult influences than shared experiences with children her age. Her grandmother Evelyn in this day and age, would be called a feminist. An independent woman who seeks to live her life according to her dictates. Amongst the profound things for me about this book are Ellie’s words as she tells her story. Here’s a passage from Chapter Two:

“Where do you start to put life together? The pieces don’t always fit. Many are missing, or borrowed. From other people’s lives, other people’s memories. Their own puzzles. Where is the beginning when you have only the end to start with? How many lies are told over the course of one lifetime?

What of all that is not said, merely hinted at, subsiding beneath the surface of action and words? All that is yearned for and never had?”

Even now, these lines leave me with a need of wanting to dig deep into life and uncover things I should know and do not know.

There were times when, as I read, I had the feeling the author had perhaps started a plot she did not conclude and had no intention of concluding and this was disappointing for me. Page 76, when Ellie found her grandmother naked in bed with Miles her lover. The next few pages made no mention of the incident and life continued and left me thinking what tha . . . a young girl sees her grandma naked in bed with her lover and the next thing pretends that nothing happened. Tsk, tsk. There I was a reader poking into nonexistent holes because pages into the middle, it pops up again, is mentioned and is laid to rest. That’s the sort of books TSS is, it’s unpredictable and while it doesn’t elicit a rush of adrenaline, it’s calm, it’s pulsing and holds you in a grip.

I’m a little of Evelyn, a little of Ellie, I’m in the book and I’m swept along in their struggles and as they come to terms with themselves. I love TSS. I will read it again. This time with a highlighter. I will mangle its pages, but not to uglify it but to bring out the beauty of its words so I can always take a look at them and sigh, and think.

I’ve never known a book to linger like this one
To hear echoes of its words long after I wistfully said goodbye.

To read a book as though the writer knew you and turned you outside in.
To read words and behold a mirror of your mind.

To reread it in your mind page for page.
To replay the scenes that wrenched your guts and made your eyes drip.

To think and maul.
To chew and not be able to swallow.

To wonder at how words were stringed.
To want to know what could have been going through this author’s mind.

To be afraid. Afraid. Not the sort that fear elicits, but the sort that goosebumps produce because you feel a book became a mirror and you could see a lot of yourself in it.

This September Sun began in August. Proceeded with a feverish grip in September. In its wake left thoughts and silence.

Not all fiction is truly fiction.

By irinajo. http://flittingbutterfly.com/2015/10/07/


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