I wouldn’t have read The Beloved by Annah Faulkner if I had realised that I had already read Last Day in the Dynamite Factory by this author, which I found quite dull. The Beloved was a much better book, although in this case, there was too much going on.
The Beloved is told by a child, Bertie Lightfoot. She is a likeable and unusual heroine, who lives for art and is able to see people’s auras as a colour.*
The story begins with Bertie catching polio while living in Melbourne in the 1950’s. She loses the use of one of her legs and remains in hospital for a very long time. Eventually Bertie’s mother, Lily May, gets fed up with Bertie’s lack of improvement and brings her home, where she dedicates herself to Bertie’s recovery. Bertie eventually recovers use of her leg, although she needs to wear a brace and a built-up shoe.
Lily May is a strong woman who loves Bertie deeply, but does not believe that Bertie sees auras and refuses to encourage her daughter’s artistic nature. I found this aspect of Lily May’s nature to be at odds to her personality, as she was encouraging towards her children in every other way.
The plot was choppy due to constant changes of location. The family started off in Melbourne, then headed off to Sydney. Next thing they went New Guinea to live, followed by visits to Canada, back to Sydney and then back again to New Guinea. I couldn’t keep up and felt that the constant changes of location detracted from the actual story, which was that of Bertie and Lily May’s relationship. If the locations had only used Melbourne and New Guinea I think the story still would have worked and would have been better for it.
The plot also had a touch of ‘throw in everything including the kitchen sink’ and would have been improved by cutting out some of the things which were unnecessary to the telling of the story. I got the feeling that the author didn’t know what was important to the story, with disapproving grandparents, dead first loves, affairs and hidden relationships strewn throughout.
I would have preferred to have stuck more closely to the story of Bertie’s parents marriage, and the battle between Bertie and Lily May over Bertie’s art.
I loved the cover art of The Beloved, which I thought was perfect for the story of an artistic child who sees other people’s auras as a colour.
*On a scientific note, I investigated the subject of seeing auras (on the internet, where else?) and found some techniques. I tried staring at my hand for ten seconds, but unfortunately I couldn’t see my aura. I then went cross-eyed, and saw about eight fingers on one hand, but still couldn’t get an aura. The website I looked at said some people have to practice for months before they can see auras. Since I think wanting to see auras is just a passing phase for me, I gave up. Plus, the website I looked at seemed a bit shonky. They said that if I phoned them up and gave them my credit card number, they would tell me all about my aura.