Christopher Reid, A Scattering
Christopher Reid’s poetic tribute to the memory of his wife Lucinda Gane has many fine lyrical and narrative qualities. In snatches Reid moves from Crete to London to an Italian market, bringing to life the past that is always present in his mind. He speaks to the departed Lucinda, reminiscing with her, interrogating her, at the same time reflecting on the brain tumour that finally triumphed over her spirit in a North London hospice. The tone throughout is calm and questioning, free alike from Dylan Thomas raging or Tennysonian melancholia. This slim volume that won the Costa Book of the Year Award in 2009 is a moving portrait of a brave and spirited woman.
The title alone indicates the fragmentary nature of Reid’s memories, the ordinariness of the tokens left behind. In a section named ‘The Bathroom of the Vanities’ he glances at Lucinda’s leftover perfume and make-up bottles. The bathroom scales, too, /stand abandoned. No one now will be consulting/ the age-fogged dial for its little fibs and trembles of error/ with precisely that peering downward frown.
Reid never shrinks from the less seductive aspects of living with a woman suffering from cancer. He touches on her baldness (which he comes to love) and the onset of her dementia, accepting that no imp or devil/but a mere tumour squatted on her brain/ Without personality/ or ill humour.
The book is an amalgam of compressed biography, novel and memoir. The portrait that emerges is of a woman of wit and intelligence being recalled from the shades to console a widower seeking, as in the Italian market thronging with bargain-hunting women, the strong, health-giving, world-immersed/ feminine element his life has lacked for too long.