The world is a puzzling, sometimes frightening place for Jessica Fontaine.
As a child she only finds contentment in playing the piano and wandering alone in the empty spaces of Audlands Hall, the dilapidated country house where she grows up.
Twenty-five years later, divorced, with her son still living at home, Jessica remains preoccupied by the desire to create space around her.
Then her volatile ex-husband reappears, the first of several surprises that both transform Jessica's present and give her a startling new perspective on the past.
THE LANGUAGE OF OTHERS tells the absorbing story of a woman who spends much of her life feeling that she is out of step with the real world, until she discovers why.
Related with humour and compassion, it offers a fresh, illuminating insight into what it means to be normal.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 384 pages
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
- Publication Date: 16/10/2008
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780340896679
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.
Review by LynnB
Like her previous book, Astonishing Splashes of Colour, this is the story of people who struggle to live "normal" lives. In this story, Jess copes with her own case of Asperger's syndrome, as does her son, Joel. Her husband suffers from depression.Jess was always more comfortable alone, and spent many of her childhood hours playing the piano. She meets her husband-to-be (Andrew) at university where he is a gifted violinist. Falling in love with Andrew draws Jess into a more "normal" lifestyle as she struggles to complete her degree and deal with a moody spouse. And, giving birth to Joel draws her even further away from her need for solitude. She is a great mom in spite of the challenges facing her -- those caused by her own needs, as well as those imposed by her jobless husband and her mildly autistic son.While the characters have afflictions, the story is mainly about love and relationships -- the same kind of issues that permeate all modern novels about families. In this way, the challenges faced by the characters are richly drawn and easy to identify with.
Review by LyzzyBee
04 Dec 2010 - charity shopJessica leads a fairly quiet life as a part-time librarian and part-time concert pianist, although she sometimes wishes her son would develop a social life and maybe move out. As she reflects on her past and family, her ex-husband reappears, trying to insinuate himself into the centre of attention. Can she learn to do things differently and will she ever understand how other people operate? Some lovely characters and I really liked the Birmingham (including the University) setting, the flashbacks and different perspectives were done well, and it was beautifully observed. A fitting companion to the wonderful Astonishing Splashes of Colour.
Review by jayne_charles
I’ve yet to read a bad book by Clare Morrall; in particular I like the way she zeroes in on life’s oddball characters. In this novel, we meet Jessica, a woman so much like me it was creepy at times. Socially inept, she blunders into a marriage with a man who has bizarre personality traits of his own, and together they have a son who is also a social misfit. Tumultuous events follow and the author uses these to show what life is like when you struggle to relate to other people.The structure of the novel was interesting: three separate strands of the narrative cover the distant past, the more recent past and the present, and all are interspersed. There is also a mixture of first and third person narration, which can be disorientating but allows us to see some of the events from the perspective of the supporting characters. Stylistically it was reminiscent of William Boyd’s ‘Brazzaville Beach’.I liked the way most chapters build up to a dramatic event in Jessica’s life, each one exquisitely horrific (the concert, the picnic, the driving lesson...). One exception is the opening chapter which felt self-consciously literary and in which very little happens. I fear anyone picking this novel up in a bookshop and skimming the opening sections might write it off as slow or dull, when in fact the opposite is true.
Review by AnneBrooke
Clare Morrall is one of the great and gripping literary authors of our time and I have absolutely no idea why more people don't read her. This book is rich in poetry and character development, and the unique main character is a real treasure. Family life has never seemed so foreign and yet so strangely necessary.That said, the mystery of why Jessica is how she is turns out to be no great mystery at all as I'd understood it by the end of the first chapter - but the interest lies in the character herself and how she comes to terms with her life. Oh, and the dying country house she grows up in and never really leaves is utterly magnificent in every way.I loved it.