Elizabeth Jolley’s Mr. Scobie’s Riddle (1983)
When I learned that Lisa at ANZ LitLovers LitBlog was hosting an Elizabeth Jolley reading week, I could not resist picking up another of her novels, although I learned too late to participate properly.
Do check the collection of participants’ reviews to get a sense of this author’s oeuvre.
Mr. Scobie is no more immediately likeable than any of Jolley’s lonely and disoriented characters; he is just as credible and complicated as the rest.
Which is to say that he is no more unlikeable than any of us would be, were we to find ourselves uprooted from the home we’d known for most of our lives and dumped into a nursing home.
There he is under the care of a matron who is overly interested in financials and extremely disinterested in anything inconvenient (such as caring for the elderly clients in the facility she manages, those very folks whose bank accounts fascinate her).
This is a very slim volume, but it contains everything that Miss Hailey’s manuscript-in-progress contains (she is another resident at the home) when she loans a copy to Mr. Scobie for his reading pleasure:
“Everything’s there,” she said. “Birth, marriage, separation, bigamy, divorce, death – several deaths, all kinds of human effort, memories, joy, pain, excitement, transfiguration, love and acceptance.”
Although I enjoyed the other two novel even more – The Newspaper of Claremont Street (1981) and Miss Peabody’s Inheritance (1983) – this was also very striking and secured my admiration of and fondness for her writing.
And, of course, there is a riddle. But isn’t there always a riddle.