Geography by Sophie Cunningham book review

‘Geography’ published in 2004 is about travel, desire, and longing for love and children. It’s a story that unfolds at the time internet communication was a new and an exciting way to connect with others mentally and spiritually. It’s Catherine’s story, told to her new friend as they travel through India together, about a Love so consuming it broke her.

The experience of reading this book – and it is an experience – was for me unusual in that I found myself more emotionally engaged than I have ever been with a book before. And I’m not afraid to say that I did have cause to have a little cry at the desperate situation Catherine found herself in. A testimony to the writing as it has the ability to connect with the reader emotionally.

There is a sense of lamentation and sadness entwined through this book which is told mostly in hindsight and is mostly, achingly sad. Perhaps this may not be the same experience for all readers and perhaps it is so for me because I can directly relate to some of the book: the time frame of the eighties fits my life, the base of travel between Melbourne and the US parallel my life, and the beginnings of the internet hooked me as it did Catherine. These things, that are the life of a Melbourne girl in the eighties, may not resinate with others the way it did with me.

But it is the intensity of longing for another and the destruction on Catherine’s life by a relationship all-consuming and out of control portrayed so acutely that is the core of this story. The confusion of not knowing why or how the longing is happening and not being able to or wanting to stop it comes through intensely. And It cannot be ignored that Cunningham’s ability to take a reader to that place is writing at its best if not its most intended.

‘Despite, or because of, the danger of unhealed wounds, of loss of blood, of pain, I let him inside me…I …had to bite my tongue to stop myself saying ‘I love you.’ Even though I didn’t, even though I didn’t love him… he drew blood and all over I could feel the bruises bloom.’ (Pg 232.)

I was looking and hoping for, in the exploration of travel, an explanation in an emotional and human sense and I was not disappointed:

‘Travelling is like a night of heavy rain. It can clear away the heat and dust of the day, of all that has gone before. It can teach you how to be light, to let go. I wanted to drive, I was going to keep moving until I understood how I might do things differently.’

Perhaps this is a book only for those who lived and loved in the eighties and the internet boom, perhaps it is for those who love travel or those who know longing for love or children, but mostly I think this is simply a book for women who live and breathe and feel and love the best of writing.

I wish I had a hard copy and not an e-book, because I want to keep this book, that Sophie Cunningham summed up exquisitely in the dying pages in a poem by Raymond Carver – Late Fragment,  on my shelf with my favourites.

And did you get what
You wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
Beloved on the earth.

Advertisements