Mystical RoseBook - 2000
A beautiful novel about the fragility of memory, Mystical Rose is the carefully paced monologue of a woman in her late eighties with a disordered mind. Now on her deathbed under the constant care of doctors and nurses, Rose is having a one-sided conversation with God.
Delving into her past, she revisits herself growing up in Cobourg, Ontario in the twenties. When her father returns from WWI an empty shell of his former self, she helps the family by going into service as a maid. Before long, she finds herself married to the scion of the wealthy family she works for, and transported into a world she doesn’t understand; life becomes even more difficult when he meets a terrible early death. Through Scrimger’s lyrical, precise prose and haunting images, Rose is revealed as a woman never quite in control of her own destiny, still trying to understand her own life.
To Rose, her mind ravaged by senile dementia, the events of six decades ago are just as immediate as those of yesterday. As theGlobe and Mail said: “Rose isn’t sure why everyone is so upset with her and can’t understand what she’s saying, thinking, seeing.” She drifts from crystal-clear recollections of her past, to confusion in the present as she attempts to interact with hospital staff and her daughter Harriet, whom she fears she never loved well enough. She forgets words and misuses them — and yet, having worked in a flower shop for years, she still remembers the meaning of every flower’s name. Scrimger says: “Mystical Rose started from a picture I had of an old lady talking to God on her deathbed in a hospital. From there I began researching Alzheimer’s Disease.”
This short novel, then, is written as a subtle montage of experiences, a style which Scrimger says is suited to the way our minds work today, with the influences of film and television. “I think more like a filmmaker, using quick cuts. Our eyes are more attuned to video games and Much Music; it has affected the way our minds think. You can’t write like Dickens and Melville used to.”Mystical Rose was his first novel in four years; excerpts were published as he was writing it in theOttawa Citizen. The book is sad, but as with Scrimger’s previous novel Crosstown: “There’s comedy in places you wouldn’t normally expect to find comedy.”
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"The past is always knocking on the door of the present ... a pleasant image that, only the past isn't always polite. Sometimes it knocks the damn door down and comes barging in."
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