Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book 60: Hood

While Room may have made Donoghue a household name among readers, she already had a long writing career behind her when it was published, and Hood was her second novel.  Set in Dublin in 1990, it's a first person narrative told from Pen, or Penelope's, perspective, chronocling the first seven days after her lover Cara's death.  Anyone only familiar with Room will probably be surprised by how detailed the sex scenes in this novel are as Pen reminisces and finds herself constantly replaying and dreaming of old memories.
Due to the fact that Pen is in the closet, her lover's death is even more complicated than otherwise.  Since she moved into Cara's childhood home four years previously, she now has to wonder if she even still has a home or if Cara's father will ask her to move out.  No one knows that Pen has just lost the only woman she has ever slept with, someone she has been with for thirteen years with the occasional break, and instead everyone just thinks she lost her roommate.  She is only able to get off three days from work because it is only a deceased friend.  Additionally, working at the same Catholic school where she met Cara, Pen finds herself surrounded by memories and triggers.
As the novel progresses each day, Pen deals with various emotions, and it is clear that though she loved Cara, and Cara even loved her, their relationship was far from perfect.  Cara was flighty and displayed little regard for Pen's feelings, often breaking up with her to explore other options, until finally they settled into a "open" relationship with Cara always coming back to Pen.  In fact, Pen is plagued by the fact that Cara was seeing someone on the vacation she was returning from at the time of her death.
While Pen is in the closet to the majority of the people in her life, Cara had found a group of lesbians to associate with, and one of them tries to offer Pen support.  However, Pen sees them more as Cara's friends so she feels uncomfortable even talking to the one group of people that she would not have to pretend with.  Donoghue does a great job of portraying the small things that Pen has to deal with after the death, the conflicting reactions and feelings, and the isolation that Pen feels.  Even while judging Cara and her choices (and disliking her to an extent), I couldn't help but be interested in her due to Pen's complete and total devotion to her.  Pen portrays herself as the reliable and steady one, the somewhat boring one, but reading her story it is hard not to want more for her, beginning with an appreciation of herself.  I quite liked the intimacy of this novel, and the fact that Donoghue didn't try to sugarcoat anything.  The reader witnesses every conflicting thought Pen has, making for a very realistic approach to death and grief.

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