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Bibliophile | 'A Country of Eternal Light' offers out of body experience

A Country of Eternal Light
by Paul Dalgarno
Fourth Estate

Margaret Bryce is the deceased mother of twin girls and, since dying in 2014, seems to be suspended in a country of eternal light. Originally referring to the North Pole in the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, a country of eternal light was a place of endless discovery and, at a symbolic level, a place that could shed light on dark secrets.

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Margaret doesn’t know what she is doing “here, there and everywhere” as she hops from one disembodied present to reliving the past as if she has “one foot with which to hop” and “a spare locomotive mechanism to employ when the first leg tires.”

The Aberdeen housewife doesn’t think that her non-existent human form as having to do penance for sins during her life and it is difficult to find a pattern to the random situations she finds herself in. Maybe she needs to save someone, or save herself, or send an SOS?

The best the reader can do is go along for the ride as the dead Margaret watches live Margaret as a young girl, a teenager and a mother with two jaundice babies in an incubator. She relives moments of her daughters’ lives and watches her husband’s mental health deteriorate.

Rachel has turbulent teenage years but eventually settles down with Gem in Melbourne and they have two boys, while Eva goes to live in Madrid with Juan. Margret bears witness to her mother’s death and her own passing and funeral, and even manages to see into her family’s future.

After a while, her loved ones begin to fade and all dead Margaret wants to do is sleep. Just like she didn’t want to spend her whole life thinking about death, she doesn’t want to spend her whole death thinking about life. All she has to do is confront something in her past that she has been successful at blocking out.

While the subject matter is deadly serious and the twist tragic, this book does shine a light on the humour of finding yourself on the other side and being able to re-examine a life.

Lezly Herbert


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