Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

Further Thoughts On The First Book Of Calamity Leek

Book cover

I wanted to follow up my review of The First Book Of Calamity Leek with the thoughts I had that dealt with spoiler content. I can’t say I’m covering everything, indeed, I know I’m not covering everything, but maybe that’s a good thing; I don’t want to bore you all with an essay! I should also add that these are my own views: if anyone reaches this page through a search, don’t take them as verbatim. As always, I’m rambling on, repeating myself, jumping back and forth between subjects as I’m wont to do.

There’s an element of religion in the book. Emily is almost a deity and descriptions of the statues make it sound as though they might be of the Virgin Mary Obviously no one was going to have made statues of Emily herself, most especially as Mother wants the place to be secret, and the number of statues there are intimate that, at best, they are of various people. If Mother was a religious person, statues of religious figures makes more sense.

Another, possibly more pertinent, argument for the statues being of the Virgin Mary is the way Mother’s story and approach to her daughter suggest a saint-like belief. Emily the pure, untouched daughter, vassal of higher power. If the statue is of Mary (and I say this even knowing there were other statues, too) then might Emily have been Mary, Mother casting herself in the role of Saint Anne? Highly unlikely, I know, but I think the comparison is interesting. Mary wasn’t abused but a person in Mother’s state could feasibly view what happened to her as beyond her control, in a bad way.

The writing is odd. It’s particularly childish. Its meaning can surely be found in Calamity’s non-education, the non-education she believes is an excellent one, that has led to not only a narrow mind but a complete lack of knowledge. The word choice, the generally poorly-constructed sentences that defy description, given as an idea as to what was most important to Mother and Aunty: speaking ability was not it. It’s interesting; if we believe Calamity’s report it seems the other girls speak better. It’s possible they’ve broader minds – their relative strength compared to Calamity’s absolute trust in her captors is where the differences lie.

Although Lichtarowicz does not specify exactly for what and why the children are stolen, we are left with a pretty good idea. Trafficking; though whether Mother’s plan truly was to hurt men or if that was a ruse is not known. Certainly the content of the book suggests Emily was harmed and Mother wants to hurt men as revenge, but these young girls have no knowledge and obviously, being young, their strength.

Where Emily is concerned, our lack of knowledge is regrettable because we don’t know to what degree there was an issue. The way Mother seems to be, there is a fair chance she has thought too deeply about a situation that may not warrant it. Whilst Emily could have been trafficked, abused, Mother’s behaviour suggests Emily may well have simply decided, for example, to have sex against her Mother’s wishes. Who is to say Mother didn’t kill her daughter? She is happy to kill other children.

Of course it’s incredibly uncomfortable to ponder over such an idea as the possibility of Emily’s lesser issue. We can at least say we’re dealing with the mother. And the thing is that Lichtarowicz doesn’t tell us because it an important thing to comment on, but at the same time she could be telling us, just not openly. That’s this book – everything is vague and the vagueness is surely deliberate. I know I read a real reasoning for the vagueness even if I still think it’s confusing and bizarre. This is awful; let’s move on.

It’s interesting to look at the way Lichtarowicz makes you question emotional and mental stability alongside cruelty. The adults certainly know they’re doing wrong – Mother runs away, Aunty shows remorse and real care for the children – but have Mother’s choices been due primarily to money, to please others beyond the garden? Or are her choices more to do with a true wish for revenge? How much are the choices down to issues in their pasts, down to emotional scars? Aunty hated the way she was seen when acting and took it too far. Depending on who exactly Mother wants to punish, she’s potentially wanting to punish many for the crimes of a few.

Interesting when compared to the way Mother suddenly changes once the garden is under threat. This is where we see some truth and the fact the girls are a mass group to Mother.

The way Lichtarowicz deals with the sexual ‘content’ remains something to think about. Certainly these girls are being groomed but the talk of weapons is a odds with that. It’s a case of placing the information about Japan alongside all this talk of weapons and making of it what you will.

The dedication to purity, if placed beside the idea (fact?) that Mother was looking for a replacement for Emily, makes a lot of sense. If Emily was harmed, abused in some way, then Mother wanting all the girls to be beautiful and pure shows the emotional strife of the woman. Even if Aunty had most of the control, Mother was the one stealing them.

The desire for youth, beauty, that runs through the book has many implications. Traditional roles, morals. They can surely also be the emotional affects of these older women. There’s almost a geisha-like quality to it. And Mother wants to keep her children young.

The affect of the confinement (for lac of a better word) on Calamity is shown throughout and in the way she relates to those outside. What’s interesting is the way the author doesn’t say that Calamity will ever be okay with the reality. It may not be sunshine and roses; she has seen much, witnessed horrors and was genuinely happy, never knowing any different. Stockholm syndrome is evident.

If we trust the story of Mother – wife of a Lord? – then what of Aunty? Where did she live, what was her connection to Mother? Is there a connection to Emily? Aunty seems to be somewhat under Mother’s thumb, too, exploited, used.

How do you solve a problem like Maria? – Aunty certainly didn’t know. But we do. Maria never was mad. She was likely ill due to lack of sunlight but her madness was a ruse and it served her well. It let her explore possibilities and kept her away from Mother and Aunty suspecting her.

Thus ends my rambling. Plenty questions; few answers, but thoughts enough for a fair discussion.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?


No Comments


Comments closed