For weeks after reading Frances Whiting’s Walking on Trampolines, my vocabulary was peppered with LuluBelle-isms.
That’s how I thought of the habit that young Lulu and Annabelle had, of mashing-up synonyms to intensify the meaning of each individual word.
“I’m starmished,” I would say at dinner. Or, “It’s importrucial that I get this done.” Even though I wasn’t as good at it as these girls, and wasn’t discussing the kind of heightened dramas which preoccupy Lulu and Annabelle, I had fun with it.
The novel slips between the early days of the girls’ friendship (and its development) and the present-day; it is a wedding invitation which provokes reflection.
Lulu’s current boyfriend frames the situation for readers:
“I don’t – I don’t understand why you would choose to go to that wedding when you could come to Hong Kong with me. Why, Lulu? Why? So you can be humiliated by that woman all over again, so that Josh can stand there with that stupid smirk on his face and tell you how lovely you look? So that Annabelle can talk to you in that ridiculous language and the two of you can pretend you’re still twelve years old and that nothing had ever fucking happened? Is that it?”
Lulu and Annabelle are not twelve years old anymore. And their relationship has been troubled for many years. In fact, the novel opens with a scene which adds a fresh fracture to their history.
“Little ripples were forming below the concrete that would eventually split and divide us like the tectonic plates they taught us about in Geography. I had no idea about those cracking, shifting plates beneath us; I didn’t even feel them moving.”
There are other disruptions in the girls’ lives which contribute to the instability they experience.
“But if my life did not remotely resemble the one I had planned, it was at least, a life. I had found comfort in its inertia, in the familiar rhythms of the office, where I arrived at half past seven and flicked the kettle on a minute after that, and at home, where even Rose’s moods, mercurial as they were, had their own pattern. Her depression waxed and waned, leaving our house in shadow or light, but always there; Rose, our very own paper moon.”
The evolution of secondary characters’ experiences adds a satisfying dimension to the novel’s management of time’s passing. In contrast, the core relationship between the girls feels familiar, predictable even, at times.
“Honestly, it’s fine; it was so long ago now, Annabelle. We were teenagers, everything seems so dramatic, doesn’t it, when you’re a teenager? I’m happy,” I told her, “we don’t have to go back there.”
Nonetheless, this is understandable, particularly given the author’s inspiration for writing the novel, which she considers a “very nostalgic book, I think, a bit of a bouquet to my own childhood. It was a far more innocent time in many ways, and I really wanted to capture that….” (This quote and the following quote are drawn from the Author’s Q&A which follows the text.)
The themes in Walking on Trampolines “are universal, the agony and ecstasy of first love, the intensity of female friendships, the awkwardness of the teen years, the stigma of mental illness, the family ties that bind, the way laughter can dissipate our fears….”