I was so caught up in and entranced by “Light on Snow” (see previous post) that despite now having a stack of Shreve’s from which to choose I couldn’t find one that called to me. I read the first few paragraphs of each, flipped to the middle, flipped to the back but, like the person desperate for sleep who tosses and turns all night rather than lying quietly, I just wouldn’t allow myself to settle. Eventually I was so exhausted that I just grabbed the nearest volume and began.
“Where or When” is a very different book from “Light on Snow” though we do see parts of the book through the eyes of children. Two middle-aged people who knew each other for barely a week as children, renew their acquaintance and the inevitable happens. It is the way that Shreve writes that draws me to her. She has an eye for small details, her characters are sensitive to the play of light on the landscape, the subtle colours of their world, she makes the ordinary extraordinary.
Though plot is important I don’t feel that it is the driving force in her books. Have you ever been to a church fete and had a go on one of those “machines” that are just a wriggly thick wire attached to a battery? You have to manoeuver a metal ring with a wooden handle from one end of the “wire” to the other without allowing contact to be made. If your hand slips a buzzer rings and carries on ringing till you manage to break the connection. Sometimes you are so shocked by the contact that the buzzer sounds continuously as you drag the ring back to the beginning. But things can never be the same, the peace and quiet has been broken by that momentary (or lingering) contact. Whilst the buzzer is sounding you are unaware of anything else, unaware of what was happening before and should have happened afterwards. Everything has changed.