Friday, 30 December 2011

Noah's Ark by Barbara Trapido

The central character of this story is Ali, a woman who was once married to the vile Mervyn Bobrow, and who is now married to the protective Noah Glazer. Noah rescued her, her marriage to Mervyn was over (he had left her for another woman). At her wits end dealing with this and with her clingy daughter Camilla, Ali absent-mindedly stepped into the road and was saved from being hit by a car by Noah pulling her back onto the pavement.

Noah takes charge. Ali is still under the influence of Mervyn, who is a horrible bully without any redeeming features at all. He is cruel to Ali and vicious to their troubled little girl;

'You wet the bed every night as an act of aggression,' he once announced to her helpfully before an audience of adult strangers. 'You do it because you hate your mother.'

This is the seventies and Mervyn thinks of himself as something of an activist, though for what isn't clear. He's all talk and no action. As the years go by he becomes increasingly obsessed with status;

He became a man who looked for his name in the Sunday Times birthday lists and felt himself slighted to find it omitted.

Ali marries Noah and they have two children together. Noah helps her to set boundaries with her ex-husband and with all the hangers-on who want a piece of her. Then back into her life comes Thomas Adderley, her first love. She knew him when they were young together in South Africa. A genuine activist (unlike Mervyn) Thomas creates waves around the steady ship of Ali's marriage.

First published in 1984, I thought that this book did seem a bit dated. It had a shallow, brittle 1980s feel about it. Mervyn Bobrow is possibly the most horrible character I have ever encountered, he is a grotesque. The fact that Ali had married him made me think less of her. In fact I didn't really understand Ali at all. I certainly didn't understand how she could risk her marriage. Possibly this book would've made more sense to me if I'd read it in 1984. Helen Dunmore wrote the introduction to the library copy I read. She really likes it, so I'm sure it's a good book - just not for me. I have read a couple of other Barbara Trapido books which I have really enjoyed.

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