Thursday, May 15, 2008

Love and Parallel Universe

One of my treasured books is the Griffin and Sabine Trilogy by Nick Bantock. No, it’s not about warring member of the Galactic empire or hobbits and men against one dark lord for the ownership of a ring. It’s the story of two ordinary persons, Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem who met through extraordinary circumstances. Griffin lives in London while Sabine lives in Sicmon Islands somewhere in the South Pacific. They share a love for art (both are artists)… a bond so strong and enigmatic that Sabine could see Griffin’s artworks in her mind as he draws them. Call it some sort of ESP. However, Sabine can only see his handwork and not the hand nor the face behind it. What is more perplexing is that their paths have never crossed. For years, Sabine could see Griffin’s works in her mind without knowing who creates them and how and why she is seeing them. Then, one day, Sabine saw an artwork of Griffin in a magazine with Griffin’s name and address. So, to borrow a phrase from the book, their “extraordinary correspondence” begins.

It is truly remarkable for it seems that they live in a parallel universe. When they decided to meet, they couldn’t see each other, literally, even though they are in the same place at the same time. And yet, they can receive each other’s letters and postcards. It is somehow like the movie “The Lake House” (2006) where the protagonists came to know each other through an exchange of letters. However, unlike the movie where the characters live in different time period, in Bantock’s stories, Sabine and Griffin live in the same time frame albeit in a parallel universe/dimension.

I would prefer that you read the books to know more of the details. The trilogy is such a haunting series of lovely stories and I guarantee you that it is a very interesting read. If you think reading a trilogy is a bit too much, try going through at least one, preferably the first book. Even if you’re intention is only to skim it, I won’t be surprised if you find yourself compelled to read it for Griffin and Sabine is an epistolary novel --- the story is revealed through documents such as letters, diaries and the likes as seen in Dangerous Liaisons or Dracula. But the difference is that with Griffin and Sabine, the story unfolds through real letters and postcards. Of course the contents are fictional, like any other work of fiction, but the physical form is real --- postcards and letters written on a piece of paper or stationary complete with envelopes and stamps! Reading the book feels like having accidentally found a bunch of old correspondence, long forgotten, kept in an old chest in the attic or an old shoebox at the back of our closets. It awakens our curiosity, as if we’ve found some long-ago, hidden treasure, and we feel, to quote a phrase from the back cover of the first book, “[a] guilty pleasure of reading other people’s mail.”

And the artwork is quite vivid and intriguing. The images are leaning towards surrealism --- a window to the characters subconscious. I find them enigmatic and yet revealing, the paradox an attractive pull to immerse oneself in the mysterious and poignant world of Griffin and Sabine.

The combination of the images and words is quite powerful, drawing you deeper and deeper into the story and consequently into the psyche of the protagonists. I believe the story is not only about a singular communication of the characters and finding one’s soulmate. Personally, I find it also as an invitation to a personal inward journey of dealing with our insecurities and certainties, of letting go and holding on, of slowly stripping oneself of illusions and delusions in order to reveal our true self and find true love.

It has been in my all-time favorites ever since I read the first book more than a decade ago. And every time I turn its pages, a certain thrill comes over me. I don’t get tired reading it for each read seems like the first and yet not the first. I know I don’t seem to make any sense, but the book is really spellbinding… and so haunting… like some buried, unexamined part of me has been laid before my eyes. Well, if you don’t get affected by it the way I am, you would certainly enjoy the romantic and captivating love story of Griffin and Sabine. It is truly extraordinary.


Unknown said...

It sounds like a very interesting story and probably much better than anything Hollywood can do. I may have to pick it up.

lareine said...

davidlind, it really is a wonderful book... i highly recommend it... it can be a bit expensive (there's no paperback edition) but i guess, it's worth it... the words and the images are really though-provoking...

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