Meridian

Mairin, a former WWI nurse married to a wealthy and dangerous man, embarks on a reckless love affair with a social outcast. During the course of their affair, she tells the following story:

A father, on a spiritual quest of his own, abandons his daughter to the negligent care of wealthy relatives. Returning to England, he tries to orchestrate a comfortable marriage for her despite her intention to become a painter. In an act of rebellion, she joins the war effort.

Deeply traumatized by her experiences as a nurse in France, and the deaths of her family in the influenza epidemic of 1919, she finds herself penniless and friendless in the libertine post-war era. Attempting to quiet her demons, she falls into frenzied sexual promiscuity until she meets an unforgiving and powerful man. However, she finds that her past will continue to haunt her until she can finally put it to rest.

A beautifully written meditation on sexual obsession, religious mania, power and betrayal, Meridian follows one woman as she overcomes her blighted family history to experience enlightenment and ultimate forgiveness.

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Reviews

The characters depicted in the novel, ‘Meridian’, are as tragic as the story, which is set in the pre and post World War I era. A shocking story? Yes and no. If the reader is at all familiar with the history of that era, s/he will comprehend the entirety of the horror which transpired then. The Great Powers that fought that war, on the one hand: England, France, Russia and America, and on the other: Germany, Austria and Italy, destroyed millions of innocent human lives.

The protagonist of ‘Meridian’, Mairin, who is abandoned, without parental love or supervision and sexually molested by her uncle, passes through all the hardships of that era in her native England: unemployment, sexual libertinism and alcoholism, in addition to the terrible events she witnesses as a nurse on the battlefield.

This is a beautifully written erotic novel, and offers an exceptionally sensitive and intelligent treatment of Mairin’s descent into alcoholism and promiscuity in her attempt to obliterate the ugliest and most painful episodes in her life and eventually come to terms with her past.

Zlata Simic
Electrical Engineer

An engrossing and affecting story of a woman’s journey to self understanding, under the very difficult circumstances of Europe between the two world wars – particularly good at capturing the atmosphere and intricacy and ambiguities of life at the time. Overall, a very well done and highly readable account.

Lillian Foerester
Accountant

 

Reading this novella is a bit like sailing. It takes a while to get going, but once the wind hits the sails you are transported across an ocean of life full of storms and passages of the purplest calm. Meridian is no light read. Both the sexual intensity and the revelations of horrors from the great war will not appeal to all, but the symbolic interplay and microscopic study of emotions and motivation are as magical and as riveting as Lawrence at his best minus the verbosity that tended to accompany his great works.

There is a huge amount of tension here, which carries on to the vey last page. Reflecting on the story I was reminded of Charlene’s hit in the late seventies ‘But I’ve never been to me’. There is certainly similarity, but then I realised that Mairin had never been to paradise, so there the similarity ends. Unlike many novels in this genre though, there is a question that needs answering. Whilst I have no doubt that parts were a joy to write, I cannot help feeling that some parts were difficult to write through the tears. There is also true to the novella’s structure a good deal of irony. It would appear for instance that Temmer like Jane Austin was completely enamoured and at home in the social scene of the elite. The truth is however that the post great war world was no place for the independent woman – as symbolised by the feisty but weak cousin Lucy. In fact Lucy is the perfect foil for Mairin in that she has no ‘real’ depth; she seems to ‘suck’ vitality out of everyone else. No, the ‘pre feminist’ lot of women was a very minute one, and I believe that LS Temmer detests the superficiality, artificiality and crassness that lie at the heart of ‘elitehood’. This, in many ways is also the heart of the work. The one character that was true to his ‘inner self, David, was ultimately destroyed by the ‘nonsense’ of the ruling class; “when young men are bartered for pride and profit, the transaction is called war” as Ponsonby so articulately put it. In many ways Conn is the closest character to David, but is a total cad; happy to squander life aimlessly at the expense of others.

This is a truly eloquent novella; exquisitely researched and beautifully written. Indeed the period when Mairin and Lucy are nursing in war torn Belgium is some of the most insightful writing of this period that I have come across; the reality and attention to detail are both startling and inspiring even though difficult to read at times.

I suppose my only criticism would be in the lack of ‘introspection’ during the novella that we get toward the end of part three, but this is probably more ‘wish’ on my part than real critique since I would love to have had the luxury of a weightier tome in my right hand that would have lasted just a little longer.

What a superb writer – what a wonderful work. I urge anyone who has an interest in social study, literature or the Great War to read this study of one family during a tumultuous period – I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

Paul Valentine