Fate works in mysterious ways. It delivered a wonderful book to me at Sydney Airport, purchased by DD to read on Lady Elliot Island.
I snitched the book and devoured it, finishing the last few pages as we waited to fly home again.
Tears welled as I closed it for the last time.
“Less” won author Andrew Sean Greer the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction earlier this year.
It tells the story of a novelist called Arthur Less, who finds himself suddenly single and about to turn 50. He’s feeling pretty sorry for himself, so he embarks on a round-the-world odyssey of literary assignments to stave off the misery.
One reviewer noted: “Everyone else seems to have weathered the usual professional and romantic disappointments and developed the leathery hide of adulthood, but not Less. ‘By his forties,’ Greer writes, ‘all he has managed to grow is a gentle sense of himself, akin to the transparent carapace of a soft-shelled crab.’ Unfailingly polite, hypersensitive to the risk of boring anyone, he remains congenial throughout, but ‘the tragicomic business of being alive is getting to him’.”
Less by name, Arthur also regards himself as being less by nature, “an author too old to be fresh and too young to be rediscovered, one who never sits next to anyone on a plane who has heard of his books”.
He is uncertain about his worth on just about every level, from his prowess as a writer to his skill as a lover. He is completely unaware of the seductive power of his kisses, which are described as being “like someone who has just learned a foreign language and can only use the present tense and only the second person. Only now, only you”.
He’s also completely clueless about how much he is admired and loved.
Arthur stumbles through the book feeling like the unluckiest almost 50-year-old in the world, but remarkable things emerge from what he regards as the ruins of his life.
The book spoke to me and its message resonanted throughout my weekend.
Between voraciously consuming chapters, DD and I spent the most wonderful few days on Lady Elliot Island.
It is a very special place.
There is nothing luxurious about the island: adequate, but unremarkable accommodation; adequate, but unremarkable food.
However, the reef that surrounds Lady Elliot is magical. And we snorkelled ourselves silly.
We saw the most beautiful fish and turtles, moray eels and stingrays and starfish and coral.
Kitted out in a life jacket, I ventured far from the shore to marvel at the sea life below.
I almost felt like pinching myself to make sure this “new” me was real. Who was this woman wandering around on a tropical island in a bikini and wetsuit, without a scrap of make-up on her face and a pair of flippers in her hands?
I liked her.
Lady Elliot Island is not the place for wild partying. Each night DD and I were the last ones left at the restaurant/bar at the ungodly hour of 8pm.
Those early nights lead us to the beach one morning at 4.45am, hoping to watch the sun rise through the clouds. We saw faint glimmers of pink through the grey before retreating to our sandy room and willing ourselves back to sleep.
We loved our little escape from the real world.
And the weather gods were incredibly kind. While there were showers and bouts of drizzle, they did nothing to dampen our joy at having a few days alone together in such a beautiful place.
Lucky, lucky, lucky us.
Here are some happy snaps (click on the first pic to open the gallery and see the captions):
PS While Lady Elliot was glorious, it didn’t entirely fulfil my bucket list dream …. I’ve realised what I want to see before it’s gone is technicolour soft coral. Lady Elliot is surrounded by hard coral, in healthy shades of brown and green, with the very occasional splash of red, blue and purple. What I saw at age 23 off the shore of Hayman Island was the most dazzling soft coral. Anyone know where I can find some again?