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Day 8

Green Water, Green Sky by Mavis Gallant

Reading: Chapter 4 to the end

August 27, 2020 by Elliott Holt

George is now 19 and visiting Paris, just a few weeks after the events of chapter 2. When he observes a ring on Bob’s finger and thinks, “Perhaps it had belonged to Harris’s wife,” it seems that Flor is, as we suspected in Chapter 2, dead.

Gallant loves situational irony: Bonnie is wearing black and talking about Flor in the past tense (“Flor was all Fairlie”) but Flor is actually alive, and in a mental hospital, or as Bob Harris describes it, “a sort of rest place.”

In the interview with Jhumpa Lahiri in Granta, Gallant explains that Flor has schizophrenia.

I’m haunted by this description of George and the phantom bead from Flor’s necklace.

“He had put his hand in his pocket and the bead was gone. What remained was his habit of clutching air.”

“Harris seemed unaware of the magnitude of the stroke.” George is “a real Fairlie,” according to Bonnie, and he clings to that identity. Renouncing Flor as “outside the family” is momentous to him, but Gallant exposes the absurdity of George’s self-congratulation when she tells us that Harris doesn’t notice.

Reading about George, Bonnie, and Bob on the Pont de l’Alma “obeying Bonnie’s order to stop and see how beautiful the lighted bridges were” makes me yearn to return to Paris. In the meantime, I have Gallant’s stories to take me there.

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