Click the banner for a complete list of readalong posts.
Part 2: Chapters 4 and 5
Next week, Chapters 6 and 7
The story so far. . .
The chapter opens with the first Christabel LaMotte poem we’ve seen so far, a chilling reimagining of the Rapunzel story, in which an unknown “he” watches an evil “humped one” climb Rapunzel’s hair in his place. Roland is off to meet Dr. Maud Bailey at the University of Lincoln, and he catches up on some LaMotte background while he’s on the train. He notes the change in scholarly attitude toward her: a biography from the 1940s dismisses her Melusina outright, calling it “now deservedly forgotten,” but applauds her “domestic mysticism,” her “delicate lyrics,” and her “troubled but steadfast Christian faith” (p. 37). Whereas, Roland notes, “thirty years later the feminists saw [her] as distraught and enraged,” focusing on a repressed indignation at feminine domesticity, her “occluded lesbianism,” and subversive female roles in Melusina.
Off the train, Roland meets and is immediately intimidated by Maud, who is much taller than him, is dressed impeccably with her hair wrapped in an elaborate turban, and who comes off as icily professional and somewhat condescending. She takes him on a tour of the university, which is the opposite of the Ash factory: rather than being buried in the hot, windowless bowels of the museum, the university is all white towers, brightly coloured tiles, libraries made of glass. Maud, a self-sufficient modern-day maiden, lives at the top of Tennyson Tower, and her office is glass-walled on one side, with highly organized books and not a speck of dust. Everything is opposite to Roland’s experience. She sets him up in the library with the diary of Blanche Glover,
the woman with whom LaMotte lived, her close companion and possibly her lover.