It’s hardly surprising that I would snatch up a copy of Bina as soon as possible after loving both Malarky and Martin John. And if I were to describe Bina to someone who had read both of her others, I would say it feels like a cross between the two of them.
Like she did for Martin John, Schofield takes a character from her first novel Malarky and expands on her, crediting the inspiration to a review of Malarky by the Irish journalist Joanne Hayden.
Dedication: “For every woman who has had enough.”
Bina is a novel of warnings, told to us by Bina herself. (“That’s Bye-na not Beena.”) By telling us her story, she is hoping to prevent anyone else from making the same mistakes she did. (“I’m here to warn you, not to reassure you.”)
If you see me on the road and I pay no heed to you, know I have very good reasons for doing so. If you ever see a person lying in a ditch, drive straight past them as fast as you can. And if a man comes to your door, do not open it.
These serve as my first two warnings.
It all started with Eddie. Who she found in a ditch and tried to help. But now she’s paying for it. Eddie has gone to Canada, and she’s hoping he won’t ever come back.
I started thinking a lot about Canada and what kind of people might be there, and would there be any hope they’d beat Eddie over the head?
It all started with Eddie, but it ended with the death of her friend. And now she is grieving as she tells us her story.
The less said about what happens in this book the better. Especially if you like experimental fiction and/or to puzzle things out as you go along. Things are not spelled out – they are hinted at and alluded to until, finally, you’ve got the picture. Or most of it, anyway. (“Listen into the gaps of what’s not being said and you’ll find your answer.”)
At 74, Bina herself is not always clear on her situation and how she came to be in it.
There’s nothing quite as confusing as yourself, I concluded. This is likely why so many of us succumb to absolute confusion, the dementia, in the end.
As well as warnings, this is a book of Bina’s musings and “remarkings”.
Can you imagine if eulogies told the truth of a person? He was rancid and awful and needed a good clout. I wish he’d died sooner and faster and left me in peace. I am glad to see the back of him, bar the door on both sides, back and front in heaven. Don’t let him in. Or, she ruined my sheets and there was never a clean cup in the house. She yowled and howled and shat and spat and I am glad the horror is over. Or, she was alright. Nothing special. There needs to be a ‘won’t be missed’ list to go with all these poems and clever rhymes on remembering.
On women and friendship…
It was what was happening to the two of us in different ways. Our minds would wander but we’d reassure one another we were as sharp as ever while individually knowing we were not. One reassuring the other would cancel out the misery of the one needing to be reassured and it was the dance we did. Heel and toe and side to side and back and forth and she and I.
I hadn’t the right idea. Not at all. But I’ll make sure, if you read this, that by my words’ end you might have it. And if you don’t, keep writing and telling how you had the wrong idea to the next woman until finally we all fathom it. We’ll have to write the warnings back and forth to each other. It’s the only thing to do. Eventually we might even start listening and not need any more warnings.
Sacrifice is a stupid thing that women do.
Don’t do it.
The men don’t notice.
And all the women around you spend their lives mopping you up.
On the human race…
I have no agoraphobia, I told her, it’s only humans I am in here hiding from. I’ve no problem at all with the open air, if you get rid of all the humans.
Since I lay down in the bed I lost all interest in myself.
You should all try it.
It is very peaceful.
Bina is an odd character. So is Philomena (Malarky) and Martin John (Martin John). But they are oh-so-interesting and amusing. I revel in their oddness, and wonder who she will write about next.
Have you read anything by Anakana Schofield? Are you tempted to? Who are your favourite literary oddballs?
My review of Malarky: “Malarky took me by surprise. It made me laugh, it shocked me, and it made me squirm with discomfort. By turns, it was shockingly raw, achingly funny, and absurdly bizarre.”
My review of Martin John: “This book is weird and uncomfortable. And the more you read, the more squirmy you will become. But, it’s worth it.”
Review of Bina at Quill & Quire (but be careful if you don’t want to know the major plot points): “Schofield locates herself in the vanguard of a group of strong women writers – Rachel Cusk, Eimear McBride, Valeria Luiselli, Anna Burns – who are radically revising the novel’s potential and pushing it forward as a form.”