Away by Jane Urquhart

I first read Away very soon after it was first published in 1993 and, on this read, was quite surprised to find that I had remembered so little. In fact, it was more a feeling that I remembered and a vision of a great white house on the shores of a lake. I also recalled a somewhat “romantic” feeling. Well, there was definitely a dreamy quality in the lives of especially one of the three women, Mary, whose story comes first and whose experience gives the book its title.Away Mary lived on Rathlin Island (Ireland) and 140 years before the book opens had discovered the remains of a wreck on the beach and waded through barrels of whiskey and “fifty clanking teapots” “and found an exhausted young man who, when she grabbed his shirt in her fists, opened two sea-green eyes and spoke the name Moira before falling once again into semi-consciousness.” Her mother and a priest and other islanders found her early in the afternoon “surrounded by cabbages and teapots, asleep in the arms of a dead young sailor.” “Those who looked down to the beach that morning crossed themselves and turned to Mary’s mother with compassion in their eyes. They knew, and she knew, that Mary was away.” And so it begins. It was said that “the islanders knew of the ones who lived under the waters and this abandoned body clearly belonged to one of them.”
“At first it was believed that Mary would die; that she would waste away, abandoning a body that had already been “left behind”. But this did not happen. She marries Brian and has two children, Liam and Eileen. Eileen is the second woman in the chain of three and the third is her daughter Esther who opens and closes the story. In Esther’s reflections near the end of the story we read  “In this family all young girls are the same young girl and all old ladies are the same old lady.” In this statement is a secret I think that helps one figure out something of the meaning of life. I love this book much more now on the second read than on the first and much more than the big white house on the shore of a lake will remain in my memory now.

Dickens Update 22; Book 2: Issue 19 and 20

In Chapter XXX,Closing In, three men approach Clennam & Co at dawn: Rigaud, Mr. Jean Baptist(Cavelletto) and Mr. Pancks. They enter Mrs. Clennam’s presence and are sent out by her. Flintwinch sends Affery away but she refuses to go (reader cheers loudly!). Affery says “I’ll up for Arthur when he has nothing left, and is ill, and in prison, and can’t up for himself. I will. I will. I will!”

Rigaud reviews his previous business with Mrs. Clennam and clarifies for the reader that he asked for 1,000 poundsfor something he had to sell which, if not bought, would compromise Mrs. Clennam. Now he doubles the amount. He demands payment for his hotel bill for which Flintwinch gives him the money. Mrs. Clennam says she cannot meet the demand but does want to buy the paper Rigaud Blandois has. She will not state what she will pay. Rigaud proceeds to outline what he knows about the family beginning with Arthur’s great uncle forcing Arthur’s father (the nephew) to marry Mrs. Clennam and her seeking revenge upon that uncle. It reveals that Arthur is not Mrs. Clennam’s son and also that Jeremiah had a twin brother (Mrs. Flintwinch was not always dreaming then!) Rigaud also reveals that he has put the offending paper in Little Dorrit’s hands and his demands must be met before the ringing of the prison bell that very night. Mrs. Clennam sets off for the Marshalsea.

In Chapter XXXI, Closed, describes Mrs. Clennam’s journey to the Marshalsea. John takes her to Little Dorrit and she requests the package left by Rigaud. Mrs. Clennam asks Amy to read the contents and asks her not to tell Arthur until she herself is dead. She also asks Amy to return to the house with her and inform Rigaud that she has read the papers and he need not approach her on this matter. They went back to the house.

At the gateway came “a thundering sound”. Little Dorrit held Mrs. Clennam back and the house “opened asunder in fifty places, collapsed, and fell.” Mrs. Clennam was paralyzed from that moment for the three years until she died. The body of Rigaud is found but not that of Flintwinch. Affery believes he escaped with various securities. Affery had followed Mrs. Clennam to the prison so was not killed in the house.

In Chapter XXXII, Going, Pancks and Casby have an interesting exchange. Casby has instructed Pancks to “squeeze more money from the Bleeding Heart Yard tenants. He follows Casby to Bleeding Heart Yard and has it out with him by giving a speech, the cutting off Casby’s long white locks and also the brim of his hat.

In Chapter XXXIII, Going!, Dickens recaps for us what the characters are up to: Little Dorrit caring for Arthur in Marshalsea; Fanny fretting upon her tortoise shell knife; Tip weak and poatronising Fanny; Mrs. Merdle “warring with Fanny”; Mr. Sparkler declaring his wife and mother to be very fine women; Mrs. General seeking a reference letter.  “Amy’s sole reliance during this heavy period was on Mr. Meagles.” Mr. Meagles set about recovering the original documents about Arthur’s birth. He goes to see Miss Wade as Arthur had but gets no information. Then he goes to London and the Marshalsea. While waiting for Amy in the room John set aside he receives a visit from Harriet/Tattycoram with an iron box and a request to take her back into his service. She tells her story to the Meagles. Mr. Meagles says he must get Arthur released and goes in search of Daniel Doyce.

In Chapter XXXIV, Gone, Amy tells Arthur she has no money and asks him again to share her fortune with her. Mr. Meagles comes back and Daniel with him. Daniel takes Amy to get a marriage license and in the morning they were married in Saint George’s Church.Third Volume of the Registers Bk2 Ch XXXIV p854

Dickens has tidied everything up tickety boo! The speed of the tidying up is perhaps a little overwhelming and it seems possible that Dickens did not find this part as interesting or as challenging as the writing of that which got us here: perhaps this is just the way it was with serial writing and publishing.