Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"The Frozen Thames" by Helen Humphreys

"The Frozen Thames" by Helen Humphreys

Reviewed By Alan Cheuse
Chicago Tribune

Canadian writer Helen Humphreys deals in her lovely prose experiment, "The Frozen Thames," with a kind of creation—the way that water turns to ice in winter—in 40 winters to be exact, 40 winters over the course of seven centuries.

Over and over again the Thames freezes. Birds freeze and fall from the air. Londoners face the cold and danger and pleasure of river ice. Boatmen lament the loss of free-flowing water; the poor sometimes freeze in mid-crossing; lovers embrace there; plague victims suffer there; royalty celebrates this mystery of physics and chemistry.

As Humphreys has a lady-in-waiting to the 32-year-old Queen Elizabeth I soliloquize in the mid-1600s, "The ice is new to us. The old ways of behaving don't seem to apply here. ... It is as though, in the very fact that the river froze, anything else might suddenly become possible as well."

Reading this inventive little volume, with a bit of a shiver, you know what it must have been like for Adam and Eve to see ice for the first time.

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