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Preserving the Past and the Precious

Waiting for the Flood - Alexis Hall

I got a headache after reading this. Note, I did not say "from" reading this. But I made the mistake of looking up Game Theory on Wikipedia and trying to understand it. I can sort of. And I am in total awe of people who can discuss it intelligently.

 

Which our two characters do in this lovely tale by one of my favourite authors.

I'm going to reread this book and perhaps edit this review but I want to say how much I enjoyed it.

 

In RL I have actually been affected by a flood. Even had to be taken out by boat and wasn't allowed back in the flat for a couple of days. Just be glad we were spared details of the stinky clean up at the end.

 

But our hero should have no problems with that aspect as his day job involves saving precious things from the effects of damp and time.

 

Book and paper preservation is another thing I have had a touching acquaintance with as my brother in law has had training in the subject and deals in antique maps and prints. So I knew the type of time, patience and care you needed to do a job like this.

 

These two factors helped me get a handle on the story.

 

For starters, I knew I wasn't about to embark on a thrilling encounter involving a gung ho macho alpha male. That helped.

 

It also helped when shortly after the start, the self effacing, stuttering hero had a Save the Cat moment of looking out for his elderly neighbour. On one level he knew she was helping him as much as he was helping her but neither articulated that fact as it would spoil their interaction.

 

For readers used to being fed easily digestible romances, this story may cause them stomach aches. (Or a headache!)

 

The previously mentioned Game Theory may be seen as simply a means to make them both sound intellectual. This is why I have to reread it.

 

Game Theory is of prime importance to an ecologist worried about Global Warming, but I don't rememer this example being used specifically. Maybe I missed it. I was reading it late at night and woke up hours later with my glasses still on. Lol.

 (Edit to add, he didn't mention this aspect which is kinda weird but perhaps he thought this might come across as preachy and act as a red herring for all those who don't agree - thus detracting from the point he's trying to make)

 

Google it for the whole scenario, but at the heart of it is every country has to decide whether or not they will decrease emissions, but because they are concerned that they will lose their competitive edge economically if other countries don't, most don't.

 

It's not classic game theory, like the one where prisoners are offered varying degrees of prison terms if they rat on the other, because with Global Warming the rewards aren't as definite. It's still an example where a person has to choose between a rational decision and an irrational one and they choose the latter even though rationally they are aware they are being irrational.

 

Okay, I can hear you saying now. This is all well and good for our hunky environmentalist but why include it?

 

Because our narrator is doing just that. Rationally, he knows he has to move on but irrationally he doesn't for all sorts of reasons.

 

I could go on but won't for now. Maybe after my reread I will see more parallels between the examples offered and their lives and the decisions made.

 

There are some beautiful quotes later on in the book when it really gets to grips with what is going on. Those who have persevered this far get this payoff. Those who gave up, like those impatient with stutterers, will miss gems like these:

 

I was, all overthrown by a sandbag philosopher who listened because he wanted to listen, not because he was afraid to speak.

or this

Feelings only exist in your head. Thoughts only exist in your head. I'm not sure how you draw the line between thinking about feelings, and feeling about feelings, or even just having feelings." He shrugged. "Basically: if you think you're happy, you're happy. Problem was, you thought both of you were happy, and it turned out he thought he wasn't."

 

To be followed up by the killer line later: "It would have been so much easier if he'd done s-something, betrayed me or cheated on me.

 

To which our lanky, gawky, but oh so kind hero replies:
(If he felt that way)...you wouldn't have really wanted to go on like that, would you? You wouldn't have wanted him to stay.


Rationally our narrator knew that but irrationaly he clung to this image of happiness he had created in his own head simply because he wanted it so much.

 

This book deserves a second read. But even on the first I caught onto the significance of the lack of a preface to the last chapter. The previous ones started in different parts of the house, mentioning the importance and the memories it held. In a way, he was clinging onto these memories, trying to preserve them just like the ephemera he rescued for a living. But the last chapter doesn't have a preface. He has finally moved on.

 

Two to three years of grieving over a ten year relationship, the only one he knows, is not "too long" as some readers have complained. For someone who rescues lost causes for a living, who preserves memories, he could have spent a lifetime like that. But thankfully at the combined urging of his neighbour, his ex's mother and his new friend, he doesn't.

 

I loved the way he saw the painting of himself done by his ex. He recognised it captured the sensual passion he once held inside. He is not a cold, rational man. That's his problem. He feels things deeply. I get the impression (and the glimpse we see of it later) he loved the physical side of sex. He uses the term :unabashedly, It was an area he could lose himself in. It didn't require speech.

 

Luckily our red-headed, gawky, lanky environmentalist sensed this and wanted this passionate man who took great pleasure and was capable of such great love as long as the recipient was prepared to earn it.

 

Thus Adam carried out the same role in life. Our environmentalist saw the ephemera that was Edwin, recognised his worth, kept him dry, patiently teased out the crinkles and was rewarded for his time and effort.

 

Lovely story and highly recommended to everyone who is looking for something more, has patience and doesn't mind being mentally challenged.