le plus beau et le plus triste paysage

telling of yuletide treasure

Oh, I got such an excellent story this year for yuletide! I feel really bad that I honestly can't recommend that you read it at all if you don't know the canon, which is A. S. Byatt's new book from last year, The Children's Book. Which I do recommend, very much, as the Byatt book that you are most likely to enjoy if you loved Possession, and if you haven't read Possession I just don't even know where to begin with you. It will certainly take longer than can be managed between now and New Year's Day.

So, my story is The Indian Rope Trick, and it so perfectly satisfies my desperate and incoherent desires for what happens next. It's the story of Julian Cain, at an advanced age, having lived long past the oldest age he ever imagined for himself, and trying to deal with it, right up until the end.

The Children's Book is a sort of family saga that covers the difficulties of middle age, of childhood, and of the cusp of adulthood among its cast of characters, but never touches on old age. By the time Julian is old, he has lived through quite a bit more of the twentieth century, and the descending arc of his career after the War is drawn with great love and melancholy, with heartbreaking details, like the posthumous edition his publishers promise him that they are planning.

Meanwhile, even before Tom Wellwood's suicide, his trauma has rendered his character a cipher where the narration would otherwise open him up to us, and the window of time wherein Julian is attracted to him and Tom might reasonably be considered able, much less willing, to return the favor are greatly restricted, to put it mildly, and yet I do love the chemistry between them, even long before it might be considered remotely sexual.

The Tom of Julian's morphine hallucinations is a Tom of his own making, compounded of Julian's PTSD from the War and Tom's PTSD years after leaving school and the theatrical collaboration that finally drove Tom over the edge and Tom's story, which was born out of his mother Olive's own PTSD, and he is written so beautifully and he is waiting for Julian, who is drawn more quickly into his world the sleepier the morphine makes him. Best unconsummated pairing ever, seriously.

If you can read this story, please do, because it's beautiful.
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