I'm home in New Brunswick this week and next. Staying with my mum in her new little home. Mum moved out of the old farmhouse a couple of years ago, and into a much smaller, and more manageable house, but it's still on the farm. So, I'm not exactly sleeping in my big white-painted iron bed, in my old bedroom in the farmhouse, where I slept as a teenager. But close.
I can look out my window at the same view that I saw growing up. I can see up the hill, beyond the barnyard, past where the brook tumbles over the rocks when it's not frozen and covered in snow. Up through the trees, to the right, to the old saw mill where my stepfather used to saw the logs that he cut "out back" and hauled home with his team of horses. He had two tractors, but he loved to use his "team," as he called them. Or up the hill across the snow covered pasture to the small orchard of apple trees on the left. Not that I really need to look. I can see all this perfectly well if I close my eyes and imagine.
But it's kind of ironic to be here at home where I spent my teenage years, stressing over my hair (fuzzy and unmanageable), over boyfriends (or the lack thereof), over high school exams and major life choices... at the same time that I'm reading a book about just that. Yesterday, I finished reading To the Power of Three, Laura Lippman's engrossing mystery novel about teenage angst and murder.
I only recently discovered Laura Lippman's work through an article by Laura Miller in Salon.com. Miller claims that the best crime fiction writers these days are women. Including Lippman. I think she's right on both counts. Although there are great male crime writers, my favourites are usually women. And Lippman's work is right up there with Kate Atkinson, Denise Mina and Tana French.
Let me be very clear...although this is a book about teens... it's NOT a teen novel. I was fascinated with Lippman's characters. The girls, of course, but also the adults. The male detectives especially Lenhardt, who has a daughter himself, the female guidance counselor, and the parents of the girls ... all with their own complex and sometimes bewildering lives. But don't just take my word for it; have a look at Jane Gross' review "Laura Lippman: When Friendship Fails You." It's a great article about Lippman's book including some fascinating biographical stuff about her inspiration for the novel. You can read Gross' article here.
Reading Lippman's book reminded me of the Tana French novel The Secret Place, which I read a few months ago. Also about teen agst, highschool, friendship, shattered vows and murder. And the secret lives of girls. I love French's work. Similar to Lippman's book, The Secret Place flips back and forth between the adult world and the world of teenage girls, the baffled and beleaguered homicide detectives who are determined to get at the truth, and the high school girls who seem just as determined that the truth shall remain hidden.
I was thinking about the Muriel Spark book because the guidance counsellor in Laura Lippman's novel gives one of the girls she is counselling a copy of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The poor girl has no clue how the book is supposed to be relevant to her life, or help her ... and she finds it just plain boring. And never having read the book myself, although I know generally what it's about, I'm not sure what Lippman is getting at here. Is Alexa, the counsellor, supposed to be as misguided as Miss Brodie? Does Alexa hope that Eve will see herself in one of Spark's characters? Am I reading way too much into this minor scene? Maybe. Probably. But that little loose end is bothering me. Plus...I should probably read the book anyway. So I will.
Which reminds me of an incident a few years ago. A female student in my grade eleven class approached me one day when I was alone in the classroom and tearfully said..."Miss, my mum says that these are the best years of my life. Is that true?" "No way, Tiffany," I replied. "Being a grown up is the best!" I don't think I've even seen a kid look so relieved.
So that's it for me for tonight. Tomorrow Mum and I are shopping for furniture for her living room. I will need my beauty rest for that adventure. On the weekend I'll be seeing friends that I only connect with when I'm here... except on Facebook. That will be fun. In between, Mum and I will overdose on Jane Austen. We'll probably watch Death Comes to Pemberley. And maybe some of our other favourites. We haven't watched Sense and Sensibility for a few years. I do love the scene where Fanny finds out that Lucy Steele is engaged to her brother Edward. I know that Emma Thompson messed about with the characters and some of the original scenes....but I still love this adaptation.
Any thoughts on crime novels about teenagers.... these or others?