Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
In the shadow of genius
on 25 May 2014
William Graves' account of his early life with his loving, quixotic and powerful father is fascinating. I read this whilst visiting rural Mallorca; his descriptions of post WW2 life capture an era beautifully, bringing alive the landscapes and the people of the island. The little boy, with his Mallorcan village playmates, leads an enchanted, happy childhood. Then, as his education becomes more important, he loses much of the closeness he shared with his father. The expectation for a formal, 'British style' education takes over. There is a sense of a lost time of innocence, and of gradual decline of the eldest son's rapport with his father. William's account of the slow and perplexing decline of his father's health, and the difficult relationship they had as William matured, is poignant and candid.
Robert's unfathomable obsessions with his 'muses' are described, not in prurient detail, but simply as they affected the family; sometimes obliquely, and sometimes directly.These eccentricities just had to be lived with, William explains. His mother, not in any way a victim, is shown to be a wise, clever and devoted woman. William's generous, passionate, complex, big-hearted and sometimes foolish father strides through the pages, dominating the lives around him. The 'Senyor' was beloved of many villagers as well as cheated by one or two. His genuine love for the island and the people shines through in his son's account of his extravagant deeds there. William's account is a self-confessed attempt to place his life with RG and his mixed feelings into perspective, after his father's death. Very readable, and beautifully observed. As I stood outside the Graves family house in Deya, (having arrived too late for 'the tour', and not sure I wanted to take it anyway) I felt a blend of tenderness for the family who had lived here, and a fleeting sense of the habits, environment and routines which accompanied RG as he wrote the seven or so books which I have read so far.