So, folks – a little smoother sailing this week, I’d say. I sort of left my reading to last minute (ahem, yesterday) due to my treacherous, never-ending chest cold. And then, of course, either something was up with my internet or WordPress was misbehaving so it was slowwwww going getting this post up – late to the party, but we made it! Let’s dive into this, shall we?
Of course, BEWARE OF SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
Section 3 – Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery
First off, I’m dumb because this is the first I realized these stories are “nested.” Meaning, all but the middle section will be revisited – which is AWESOME.
This read like a thriller mystery, with corporate conspiracy, sexy-but-smarter-than-she-looks journalist looking for a real scoop, and many suspicious characters abound. I thought Luisa was excellent, and I loved her bad-assery and sleuthing ways.
This section is told in the third-person, which is different than the first two sections of which were told in first-person perspectives. After having read the 4th section, where Mr. Cavendish is in possession of a transcript involving our very own Luisa Rey with the same title as this section – methinks said transcript is what we are reading. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Another significant plus of this section is SIXSMITH, and some of those connections getting a little more fleshed out. If you remember, Sixsmith was the mysterious recipient of Robert’s letters from section 2, however, now the year is now 1975, and over 40 years have passed since those letters were first written.
Basically, a seed of a story idea is planted by Sixsmith, and Luisa is intrigued. She uncovers more condemning information, by the usual methods – lying, sneaking, impersonating, “befriending”. Finally, with hard evidence in hand – enter thrilling car chase and ultimate dive to Luisa’s presumed death – and, end scene.
Oh, but back up second – earlier when she is impersonating Sixsmith’s niece, she is given Robert’s letters and upon reading them, comes across the description of his comet-shaped birthmark. And what do you know:
Her bathroom mirror is half-hidden by a shelf of shampoos, conditioners, a box of sanitary napkins, skin creams, and gift soaps. Luisa shunts these aside to get a clearer view of a birthmark between her shoulder blade and collarbone. …Coincidences happen all the time. But it is undeniably shaped like a comet.
As an aside, I must have feminism on the brain, after discussions yesterday over at The Socratic Salon, because the blatant theme of sexism in this section really stuck out to me. Both in Luisa’s dealings at work, in that she had to work harder and procure hard evidence for her story, whereas her men peer colleagues were given a pat on the back for their sub-par work. Also alluded to by Fay Li, who was sharing an interaction on her first day of work, where she was propositioned by a charming male co-worker who wanted her to “oil his bolt and relieve the excess pressure on his nuts.” Fay Li’s response:
Forty, married, two kids. So his buddies are snorting with laughter now. What would you do? Dash off some witty put-down line, let ’em know you’re riled? Slap him, get labeled hysterical? Besides, creeps like that enjoy being slapped. Do nothing? So any man on site can say shit like that to you with impunity?
And, lastly, who is Javier, the young neighbor boy who randomly hangs out in Luisa’s apartment with his stamp collection? (FUN FACT: I used to collect stamps back in the day, and am the proud owner of QUITE the extensive assortment. Something to revisit in my old age.) Does he play a larger role? And what of Luisa’s ex-boyfriend?
Section 4 – The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish
I found Mr. Cavendish, small time book publisher, a bit of as ass hat. But that’s beside the point…. This section is back in the first-person perspective, of one, Timothy Cavendish writing out his memoir by hand. He is telling of an event which occurred several years prior, in a tangential style, with the plot lines running away and coming back throughout the section.
Timothy finds himself needing to escape, thus saving his fragile bones, and sets off to a safe location, procured by his brother, who has bailed him out time and time again. His trip was a bit tumultuous, with various road blocks along the way, including ticket mishaps, missing drivers, delayed trains, and a run-in with spunky young boy while spying on an old acquaintance.
He smokes a hit from a friendly Rastafarian, and he is all kinds of messed up. If we didn’t already find Mr. Cavendish a wee bit of an unreliable narrator, he’s definitely entered that arena now. He deliriously makes it to his final destination, and signs himself in. And oops, he’s not in a hotel after all, but has been tricked into an assisted living home for the elderly, and finds himself barred from leaving.
The more I ranted and raged, the more I proved that I was exactly where I should be.
And thus we are left with Cavendish’s final, ominous words:
But as I pushed cold peas onto my plastic fork, a chain of firecrackers exploded in my skull and the old world came to an abrupt halt.
Huh – I, the reader, am left wondering and wanting…
Mitchell, so far, has woven in some big, hot button issues – racisim, sexism, ageism, and probably some more -isms I’m blanking on right now. One is left to wonder, if this is meant to be a statement of sorts, or just as a representation of the respective times each section was portraying – i.e. 1970s sexism, 2000s agism, and so on.
So, my #CloudAtlasAlong-ers… what did you think of these sections? Have you picked out any other themes weaving through the book so far?
Don’t forget to go check out April’s thoughts, and link up your posts/tweets below! (Click to add your post, and read others’ posts as well).