Thursday, 13 July 2017

Territory of Light - Sunday in the Trees

The chapter Sunday in the Trees takes us into June as Territory of Light continues and although brief, being about ten pages the prose has such a vividness to it that in a way makes it stand out a little more prominently from the previous ones, it's events seem to slip out from the narrator's continuing story, and similar to the preceding chapters the thought arises that we're receiving a snapshot of each month, a day at a time nearly, as the book progresses we begin to wonder a little at the events occurring between these presented chapters. In a way Sunday in the Trees strongly displays the themes that Tsushima explores in her writing, namely the alienation, marginalization and loneliness of single motherhood, through prose which is pitch perfect the reader's concerns rise with her character and in a few deftly constructed sentences are movingly dashed.

The setting of most of Sunday in the Trees takes place in Bois de Boulogne, a nearby park and garden to the narrator's apartment, with high zelkova elm trees that the narrator is surprised she hadn't noticed before. Through a number of scenes we read examples familiar with single motherhood, her daughter uncooperative and unruly, a slap that resonates from mother to daughter producing corresponding memories of her receiving one from Fujino, her husband, this is not the only instance to the chapter where the past is mirrored in events occurring in the related present, after her daughter runs off in a temper a memory from school of a boy running away is recalled, through these scenes, and throughout the chapter Tsushima's prose has an economy where a word appears not to be missed in evoking a scene or provoking poignancy as is seen toward the end of the chapter. Throughout there are moments of the turbulence of the narrator coming to terms with the relentlessness of single motherhood, having to give piggyback to her daughter, taking on both mother and father roles, added to this in dealing with a tantrum in which her daughter confesses that being with her father Fujino is best.

Reading Sunday in the Trees we're reminded again that the novel has both the continuous storyline of a separation and also of being that a collection of vignettes with the theme of light occurring through their course, in this chapter whilst exploring the emotional landscape of her narrator this leads to it's powerfully illustrative conclusion. Whilst at the park the narrator spies a lone woman with a child who appears to her to be in a similar circumstance, through the narrator's imagined conversations with the woman and of her picturing their children playing together the reader is tempted into visualizing the beginning of further characters being introduced to the storyline. The narrator learns of the details of the woman's background, the child leading a kind of latchkey kid existence, residing in a six mat room while it's hinted that the woman has turned to prostitution to get by, in all a disarming portrait that further provokes consideration of the plights of single motherhood.  Towards the end the attentive reader's might begin to wonder - when the light?, and whilst on their way back from the park with her daughter carried piggyback the narrator feels a sensation of heat and light momentarily erupt behind them although turning to check they see nothing, how Tsushima links this scene with the plight of the woman seen at the park is a galvanising one, and in a sentence we return to the narrator's progress of picking up papers to file for divorce.

Territory of Light at Penguin Classics   

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