Going to the Vet
When you have five cats, going to the vet becomes a kind of dreaded routine that’s lying in wait with awkward frequency every other month. You really get to know the individual distressed foibles of your little kitty children. Jabberwocky howls and launches herself at the vet’s counter. Rusalka wails in a way that makes you want to curl into a ball and weep. Bubastis makes a loud, almost human ‘MEOW’ sound. Bandersnatch glares. Wesker is just quietly upset and sometimes furious.
It was Wesker that we recently took to the vet for her yearly check up, something that I get very anxious about as she gets older. She’s a healthy cat, and she’s never really been ill, but that doesn’t stop me from catastrophizing outrageously. This year, she got her vaccines, was completely fine, but we decided that, at almost fifteen, it was time for some wellness bloodwork — if only to make sure everything is fine.
Well, it mostly is. But we need a urinalysis to investigate further and so the anxious fretting isn’t over. And on top of that I need to somehow convince the cat to let me collect her pee. She’s already not impressed.
The writer, HD, was primarily a modernist poet and she had an extensive career during which she penned memoirs, verse, and novels. However, I find that her background in poetry shines through her prose. Sentences are painstakingly constructed to deliver maximum impact and to be absolutely beautiful.
The plot of HERmione focusses on Hermione Gart, a young woman who has just left university and finds herself at a loose end with friends and family. Unsure of what to do with her life, she gets engaged to a man named George Lowndes because she thinks that is what she wants. But is it? As the wedding looms closer she begins to fear that going through with the marriage means losing herself and the work that has become so important to her being. Added to this is a friendship with another woman named Fayne Rabb that is constantly a shifting presence somewhere between magical and awkward.
This novel was an examination of identity as Gart struggles to determine who she is and whether she is at risk of losing whatever grasp she has on herself in the face of Lowndes’ domineering presence. I found that to be the most powerful aspect of the book. Though the back copy emphasizes the female friendship, I found that to take a backseat to HD’s descriptions of atmosphere and the character’s internal state.
Theme and Style
HERmione is definitely a feminist novel, with the expectations placed on women, female identity, and relationships between women taking the spotlight. Though there are some powerful statements here, I wish they went further. I wish they were more concrete. HD says many things but it feels like her focus is too much on individual words that sometimes her point gets lost in the smoothness of the phrase. This makes for a book that is sometimes quite inaccessible and quite difficult to read. I found I could read only a certain number of pages in a sitting, and there were times where I wasn’t sure what was actually going on in terms of the plot outside of Gart’s head.
I would still recommend this book, especially if you have any kind of interest in feminist literature, but I would so with a warning that it is not one that has any kind of entertainment as a goal. The reader is expected to work to get something out of the text. If you’ve come for a yarn, you have definitely come to the wrong place.
At the conclusion of the book, Gart in essence choses to preserve her own identity by not marrying Lowndes and instead pursuing nursing. With the presence of Rabb lurking in the wings. It’s more of a definite ending than I expected from the style in which the book was written, but something in the tone of it seems to stick in my craw. Gart is feeling remorseful for the people she has hurt in her quest to find herself, but it falls a bit flat.
I don’t think the conclusion is a problem is and of itself. I think perhaps what I’m really missing is emotional response in Gart. She evolves as a character but it is a revolution reached intellectually. Lots of thinking, not a lot of feeling. It renders even the remorse into a flatness, when there shouldn’t be one.
A writer can still convey emotions while still primarily having the evolution occur within the character in a way that is primarily intellectual and academically removed. For example, Gwendoline Riley is a master of this technique and I would strongly recommend her work if you’re interested in current feminist writing.
So today, we have the special kitty litter and we will be shortly collecting Wesker pee. We’ve staked out her urinary schedule over the weekend and we know when she goes, where she goes, and when we can best catch her in the act. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. It will be even harder to wait on the result once we take in the sample.
I’m trying to just breathe and remind myself that nothing serious is wrong. But I have a hard time waiting. All I can do is hold my lovely spouse’s hand and rein in the catastrophizing.