of the girl who fell

I feel like it’s been a while since I last had a good so-called “book hangover”. On Friday, I finished reading Karen Foxlee’s “The Anatomy of Wings” and I still haven’t been able to move on and start a new book. I haven’t even gotten around to choosing which of the many books on my TBR list I should read next. TAOW is looking like a tough act to follow. I’ll probably settle on something in a completely different genre.

TAOW was actually given to me by a friend for my birthday last year. She said she bought it because it looked cool and seemed like it might be the sort of novel I’d enjoy. This is the edition that I have:

The Anatomy of Wings - Karen Foxlee (UQ Press edition)

The Anatomy of Wings – Karen Foxlee (UQ Press edition)

As you can see, it’s a rather melancholy-looking cover, so, matched with the title, I was expecting this novel to be poignant, poetic and moving. And, boy, it did not disappoint!

Before I started reading it, I had actually been a bit afraid that it’d be overly poetic in the descriptions and metaphors and the writing in general; and I was worried that I’d be going through this book, rolling my eyes at the sap dripping off the pages. First impressions can be harsh, hey? Well, I was half correct – it was very poetic, very descriptive, and abstract at times, but it wasn’t overbearing, and it never got to the point of being cringe-worthy.

I would actually say (and I have said to the friend who gave me the book) that TAOW is potentially one of the most beautifully written modern novels I have ever read. (By “modern” I mean something set within the last, I dunno, forty to fifty years (?) Well, it was first published in 2007, and the story’s set in the ’80s, so it fits my loose, not-really-defined criteria anyway.) It was so amazingly written that I didn’t even mind that Foxlee only used commas very, very sparingly (probably the only grammatical fault I could find, but you could also call it poetic licence and hence not really a fault).

“The Anatomy of Wings” is the story of a young girl, Jennifer Day, and the events surrounding the death of her oldest sister, Elizabeth (AKA Beth). It’s told from Jenny’s perspective, but the narrative switches between pre- and post-death, and you’re sort of piecing together the whole picture as you go along. At first this was a little bit confusing, but Foxlee does make it obvious enough where you are at any given point in the book (while still being subtle, of course). As I really got into TAOW, I really liked this switching and jumping back and forth. Rather than stunt the flow of the novel, I think it helped to build tension and intrigue.

But, of course, the stand-out thing for me was the way Foxlee used words to create such powerful imagery: the way she paired subjects and descriptors that usually don’t meet in the same sentences; and the way she brought small details – things that other writers might’ve ignored – into the story and actually enhanced the story by doing so.

I should mention as well that TAOW is set in a rural Queensland mining town. No offence to rural/remote towns, but given the setting, I really had not expected the novel to be so deep and magical and fundamentally moving. I hadn’t expected to uncover such a strong connection to the characters. Jenny is only about ten years-old in the book, but she has got to be one of the most likeable and relatable child protagonists I’ve ever come across. (This is probably helped by the fact that she really likes birds (as do I) and her favourite bird is the wedge-tailed eagle, which is also my favourite bird. I am actually considering writing a post on this.)

Sometmes it was the really simple but beautiful details that got me. After reading TAOW, I feel like I’ll never look at the sky in the same way again; I’ll never look at rain clouds or dead grass or eye lashes in quite the same way. And it wasn’t just the visuals. Foxlee incorporated a lot of other sensory details as well, particularly sound. The auditory details – the cicadas singing their one-worded, one-noted song; the sound of bicycle tyres on hot bitumen; the lake breathing in and out against the grass and weeds – all amazingly written. One of my favourites, though, is when Jenny describes the sound of her mum’s voice, post-tragedy, as having the quality of “a teaspoon tapped against a teacup, it had a hollow fragile ring to it”.

“The Anatomy of Wings” is a book that I was sad to finish. It’s one of those books that, once finished, I straightaway went back through to re-read favourite excerpts. It’s a book that I wanted to cry over – not from sadness, but from the beauty captured in its pages.

5am insomnia

Something’s been going on, and I don’t know what.

I think I might be developing insomnia or something.

So, recently – as in since last week – I’ve been consistently waking up before my alarm. Usually there isn’t anything that wakes me up. I just wake up. Once I’m awake, my first thoughts are generally something along the lines of “Did my alarm go off yet? Did I just turn off my alarm and go back to sleep? Did I even set an alarm last night? Do I have to get up now?”

Most days, Monday to Friday, my alarm is set for some time between 5:35am and 6:15am, depending on when I’m meant to start work. These days, when I’ve been waking up before my alarm, I’ve been waking up around 5am. There was one morning when I woke up at 3am, but that only happened once.

Part of the problem is that, since it’s winter here now, the sun’s not really up until well after 6am, so if I wake up at 3am to pitch-black darkness, it looks just like what I’d expect at 5:42am. (I like to set my alarm to not-rounded times – mostly just for the heck of it, but also because it kind of feels like I’m giving myself a couple of extra minutes.)

Another part of the problem is that I only set one alarm, and I never snooze it. Once it’s off, that’s it. This is probably why I freak out when I wake up at 5am, and I think that I’ve turned off my alarm whilst half-asleep and inadvertently slept in. I know most people will set multiple alarms, or snooze multiple times before actually getting up, but just the thought of doing that annoys me. I’d rather just set my alarm for a realistic time and get up once it goes off.

Of course, that’s sometimes easier said than done.

Funnily enough, on that night when I’d woken up at 3am (I was pretty awake when I woke up too – I was psyching myself up to get out of bed, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, ready to take on the world), when I realised it was only 3am and promptly went back to sleep, I actually then had a dream about being late for work. However, it doesn’t end there. I woke up again around 5am, went back to sleep, and then when my alarm went off at 5:39am, I turned it off, made a feeble attempt at pushing myself out of the fog of slumber … and then fell asleep again.

Fortunately, I only slept for an additional 20 minutes or so and, since I’d actually set my alarm a bit earlier than I needed to, I still made it to work on time (a bit early, in fact).

This morning wasn’t too bad, though. I reckon I would’ve slept right through until my alarm had it not been for someone pottering around the house at some ridiculously early hour. Furthermore, this morning when I woke up pre-alarm, I didn’t need to check my phone (alarm & clock is on my phone) – I was able to rationalise that my alarm had most definitely not gone off yet, and I could just go straight back to sleep.

Usually when there’s some disruption to one’s sleep pattern, such as what I’m experiencing, it’s associated with some other change or disruption e.g. stress/anxiety, change in work schedule, jet-lag, etc. In my case, I actually have no idea what the root cause is. Nothing has really changed; nothing is different. Well, nothing that I’ve noticed, anyway.

Despite what happened in my dream, I don’t think I’m actually overly worried about being late for work. I usually leave home with plenty of time to spare, and I’ll catch the early train in.

Maybe writing about this will help. I bet the blogosphere is filled with insomnia-inspired posts. Midnight to 3am mightn’t be a “peak” posting time, but I bet it’s pretty popular all the same.

Well, I’m going to go to bed now so, until next time, sweet dreams!