Thursday 26 September 2019
A Keeper of Sheep by William Carpenter
Militant feminist, Penelope Solstice, known as Penguin, is expelled from college after setting fire to a fraternity house which was the site of a gang rape. She retreats to her father's summer house at Cape Cod, which he now shared with his new wife, Dorothy, only a few years older than Penguin. Here Penguin reconsiders her relationships and her political views as she joins the fight to save a local wetland area. She also befriends and cares for Arnold, a composer who is dying of AIDS and is desperate to complete his final work, which is inspired by Fernando Pessoa's Keeper of Sheep.
This is a wonderful book, beautifully crafted with a poet's eye and ear for the right metaphor and a great understanding of music and the human heart.
'Arnold told me he was no longer choosing from an infinite source of musical ideas, but that his mind felt like a room that was being moved out of, with only a few pieces of furniture remaining'.
The narrative is compelling, and the social and environmental issues are dealt with in a way that is both serious but subtle, so that the whole is never bogged down by issues. It's a very moving and thoughtful book with moments of humour. Penguin's journey into a more adult understanding of the world is beautifully done.
A Keeper of Sheep by William Carpenter published by Abacus (1994)