I’m reading a book at the moment that has inspired me to knit socks and sit by the sea. This is the second book by Scarlett Thomas I have read, and it’s really is very good. ‘Our Tragic Universe’ is a strangely affirming book that has made me remember that it’s OK to wear pyjama bottoms with a sweater on winter evenings in the house. And that there are other people who are interested in science. And that telling stories isn’t just about explaining relationships – stories of what we are interested in can inform the lives of others.
The novel is both entertaining and informative, because all of the characters give us the benefit of their extensive knowledge about many and varied aspects of life. There are long pieces of dialogue where the main character discusses the interests of her friends; at first this is hard work but eventually it adds to the roundness of the novel. None of the characters are anywhere near perfect and it’s set in a small area of Devon.
Additionally, the main character is a writer and talks a lot about writing novels and formulae vs freewriting, without really expressing much of an opinion. The dialogue about narrative is fascinating and the non-fiction vs fiction explanation, involving someone on Dartmoor looking for the beast, is inspired. Like ‘The End of Mr Y’ there is a kind of esoteric feel to the plot, as if something is happening beneath the story that is slightly unsettling.
For me, the best part of the novel is where she starts to knit socks from a pattern she finds in a book. In the middle of a crisis she finds a way to balance herself, something to return to in uncertainty, and something useful in with the bargain. I can see this trait in myself, with my cactus growing and my painting and, of course, writing. The sense of peace in immersion in something you are passionate about is sometimes elusive for me, but reading this book helped me to find it.
I haven’t actually finished it yet, but when I do I’ll give the full verdict, but even this far, I would recommend it wholeheartedly. So now I’m in search of a set of sock knittng needles…