02 February, 2010

A Severe Mercy

This is the only book, ever, that made me cry when I read it for the first time.  I bawled. Even sobbed a tiny bit.  I mean, who wouldn't cry! It's not just a love story - it's a story about a love.
Back cover: "Sheldon 'Van' Vanauken and Jean 'Davy' Vanauken were lucky enough to discover that radiant love so often written of in books, so seldom found in real life."

"Rather suddenly, without previous reflection on the matter, it began to appear to me that heart-shaped faces were perhaps the best kind.  She was not very tall, and I was; but now I wondered whether, after all, small girls were not more - well, more adorable, sort of.  Especially when they had shining brown hair and low lovely voices and beauteous eyes."

"Thus, rather improbably, began what I must call, judging by others I've known of, a rather remarkable love.  It's remarkableness lay, not in our falling quite desperately in love - many have experienced that glory - but what we made of that love."
"A beam of sunlight slanting through one of the tall windows fell upon my head and shoulders, turning my light-brown hair to gold. I was smiling at her. She paused in what she was saying, then said in a low voice: 'My golden one!'"

"The Shining Barrier.  The Shield of our love. A fence around a tree to keep the deer from nibbling it.  A fortified place with the walls and watchtowers gleaming white like the cliffs of England. The Shining Barrier - we called it so from the first - protecting the green tree of our love. And yet in another sense it was our love itself, made strong within, that was the Shining Barrier.
"But why does love need to be guarded? Against what enemies? We looked around us and saw the world as having become a hostile and threatening place where standards of decency and courtesy were perishing and loomed gigantic.  A world where love did not endure.  The smile of inloveness seemed to promise forever, but friends who had been in love last year were parting this year.  The divorce rate was in the news...We raised the Shining Barrier against creeping separateness, which was, in the last analysis, self.  We also raised it against a world of indecencies and decaying standards, the decline of courtesy, the whispering mockers of love.  We would have our own standards."

"Ten days later, in Miami, we were masters of a sturdy, teak-built, gaff-rigged sloop named Gull....We lived aboard and sailed the waters off the southern tip of Florida, exploring the keys and inlets..."
"When she (Grey Goose) was launched, Davy christened her, breaking a bottle of wine against the lovely-curving bow, and crying as the schooner slipped into the water: 'Keep us out of the set ways of life!'"

Oh dear.  Quotes can't convey even a smidgen of the loveliness of this book.  I could gush unintelligibly, but instead I will just strongly recommend that you pick it up if you haven't read it before. Heck, I would mail it to you, whoever you are!  It's so painfully good.

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