Friday, April 10, 2009

If a Room Could Speak ...

There's a very interesting piece by Jane Sullivan in The Age about how furnishings can bring the characters to life in a piece of fiction.

She takes as an example Stig Larsson's crime thriller The Girl Who Played With Fire, and notes how the author uses detail :
... to gradually build a sense of authenticity; and also to show us character.
There are two novels where I feel this has been done particularly well. The first is Anne Enright's The Gathering and the contrast between the creme and beige of Veronica Hegarty's home and the comparative darkness and clutter of the family home which serves to emphasise her distance from the events of her childhood.

The second is Balzac's Cousin Bette where the faded glory of the Hulot household is contrasted with the elegance of good taste of Josepha's house (the physical comfort provided by her men); the cleanliness but coldness of Bette's apartment; and the tasteless flashiness of the Marneffe's apartment.

Have you noticed any other interesting examples?

Certainly, the description of an interior is useful device and as Larsson proves, doesn't have to slow down an exciting plot. And isn't it something we do in real life too - work out what other people are like when we visit their homes?

(Maybe this will inspire you to write a description or two of your own ...)


Anonymous said...

I don't entertain in my house for the same reason I don't have a blog. As a free speech advocate, I have to allow people to say anything they want to say. I can't be having that in my house, so I usually entertain friends and relatives in a restaurant or wherever.

I know what other people are like even if I don't visit their homes. Your house is not necessarily a reflection of who you are, it's a reflection of how you want to be perceived. Your private areas (your bedroom etc.) are more reflective of the kind of person you are. Your hall and living room are a reflection of how you want to be seen as, rather than who you really are.

dreamer idiot said...

We don't call them 'living spaces' for nothing :) Sometimes the psychological 'interior' of the person also 'maps' out these rooms and living spaces.

Also worth thinking about is how spaces 'inhabit' people, as in how these spaces 'create' the people living in them.

Anonymous said...

DI -

That's very true. If you have a large house, you live differently from if you have a small apartment.

Spaces create circumstances, and these circumstances create the people that live in the spaces, because if you live in the space, you have to live with the circumstances as well.