Friday, 23 July 2010

According to Arnold: A Novel of Love and Mushrooms

by Giles Milton

Till the very last pages, I was sure that I was reading a work of another master of far-fetched fiction. And then: a poignant, almost tragic finale. Back to reality? Maybe. In any case, I feel relieved that the fall of Berlin Wall was not a monarchist plot and hope that Flora ended up with a right man. But I am afraid I said too much already.

Unfortunately, the paperback edition I took from the library (of which I am the first reader, apparently) started to fall apart almost immediately, so it was a little miracle that I brought it back more or less complete from my holidays.

According to Arnold: A Novel of Love and Mushrooms
‘You don’t have to take more,’ explained Lola later that evening. ‘It’s not obligatory. And there are some women that count for two, the really big ones, like Gilbertine and Doris. If you are married both of them, you’d probably be considered as having five wives, if you included me.’
I blinked and laughed as I tried to take it all in.
‘But wouldn’t you mind?’ I asked.
Mind?’ She looked puzzled. ‘Why on earth should I mind? A man like you needs several wives. You’re a king, don’t forget. Didn’t your Henry the eighth have lots of wives?’
‘Six,’ I said. ‘And he killed two of them.’
‘Well you’re not allowed to do that on Tuva,’ she said. ‘You have to look after us. To have and to hold – remember? We take the wedding vows very seriously on Tuva.’

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