Monday, December 14, 2009
Margaret and Patrick are the main characters in this novel. Although Margaret and Patrick are married, their interests are different. Margaret is a photojournalist while Patrick's interest is medicine. The one goal they have in common is to climb Mt. Kenya. Subconsciously, they might have thought such a virtuous goal would save their marriage. I did not take long before I could see a change in altitude, a change of place is not necessarily the way to better understand or love a person more deeply.
Mt. Kenya ruled by the African's Ngai becomes the truth teller. To me, mt. Kenya served as a guide and interpreter to all of the characters desires and motives. Mt. Kenya with its icy glacier, sun so hot it could burn and chasms so deep there seemed to be no end stripped bare all masks, all lies and/or all pretenses. I really became deeply involved with the Mountain. Thankful I was not one of the climbers. I think out of all the climbers in the group, during the two treks up the mountain, Margaret seemed the weakest. Although, Diana dies, she is not a weak person. She's stubborn and a know it all and very assertive.
Diana and all Anita Shreve's characters are fascinating. Whatever you think might happen to one person might not occur to that person. In other words, the book is full of surprises. For example, I was never prepared for any of the tragedies that struck Patrick, Margaret, Adhiambo. For me, Anita Shreve in "A Change of Altitude" is suggesting that life and people are not stable but both are ever changing like the weather. The novel made me feel smaller, more humble while the people of Africa, the Masai, and Mt. Kenya, the Leopard and Mamba snake became larger than life and able to conquer any one who dared come to close to their terrain.I feel Anita Shreve left an open field for any person to make a philosophical guess or statement about the continent of Africa and those who dare to try to tame it.
Also there is always the silence hanging over this place and the people whether native born or expatriates. Learning that silence is golden keeps some of the people alive and free. Break the barrier of silence and someone will gladly destroy you. Margaret learns about this dilemma when she hears whispers about African students murdered and mass graves." There is constant tension. Should I speak or remain silent? I could feel these dark clouds of fear throughout the book. There is constant suspense. Who will survive? Who will not survive? Whether on flat land or on the mountain that choice has to be made by every person.
Anita Shreve with the quiet beauty of her words led me to the summit of Mt. Kenya. She writes in almost a sacred way. Did I imagine all those dangers or did I truly just come through a traumatic experience?