As I was speeding through our collection of Maclear’s picture books – out of sheer enthusiasm rather than a desire to be done with all of them – hoping there would be no end in sight, I realized (as I noted previously) that I needn’t have limited my search to picture books at all: Maclear writes for adults too!* Better yet, we have them in our collection!
To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, considering picture books are a whole ‘nother beast as compared to adult novels, but I think Maclear has convinced me to continue reading her other novels.
Despite the constant jumping between past and present in Stray Love, Maclear does a wonderful job making it all come together as a coherent story: the reader is not left for a moment disconnected or at a loss as to where exactly in time we are in the story, whether it be with Marcel’s telling of his history with Oliver or the present day with Iris. While Marcel & Oliver are not, in my opinion, discernibly British, and I’m a bit confused as to why they were made to be British because it doesn’t play that large a part in the plot in the sense that they could well have been North American without much detriment to the novel as a whole, the entire novel works. For the time being, I’ve put The Letter Opener on hold and eagerly await its arrival.
At the same time as I was reading Stray Love, I was also looking into Julieta, the film based on Alice Munro’s Runaway collection, along with Pedro Almodóvar’s comments about his adaptation. It was a complete coincidence in terms of timing, but I do believe that this helped shape my appreciation and understanding of Stray Love, given that I had read the article prior to fully engaging with the novel. While I have never read Munro nor yet watched Julieta, I couldn’t help noticing the similarities between Stray Love and Julieta in terms of the shape of their structures: Maclear takes the reader back and forth between generations, between Oliver & Marcel and Marcel & Iris, making clear the connection between Oliver’s childhood – his ghosts – and Marcel in adulthood as he mirrors those same qualities he had always found lacking or insufficient in Oliver; the repeating of history likewise in Munro & Almodóvar’s adaptation, Juliet(a)’s abandonment of her mother in her youth reflected in her estrangement from her daughter as an adult. A quote pulled from the article on Almodóvar’s reflection on his adaptation, I think, works equally well for Stray Love: “We say of some things that they can’t be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do – we do it all the time”, though perhaps it can be interpreted in a different light.
* I’d like to say that although it’s pretty obvious which of Maclear’s publications are meant for children and which for adults, which is to say that the target audience is clear, I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that adults should not have reason to read her picture books (or anyone else’s picture books! They’re a treasure trove and I think classification systems, though useful and perfectly justified, do us a bit of a disservice by insinuating that it should only be one age group (though on this account, too: when do you stop being “junior” and become a “young adult” or an “adult”?) that reads or listens to or watches a given material, but I digress). I would recommend a visit to the junior section to any and everyone.