Seven great quotes from “Faces in the Water” by Janet Frame

I recently read Faces in the Water by Janet Frame, originally published in 1961. The film is based on the author’s own traumatic experiences in mental institutions. Here are seven quotes from the book that particularly stood out to me.

We stood at the gate, considering the marvel of the World where people, such is the deception of memory, did as they pleased, owned furniture, dressing tables with doilies on them and wardrobes with mirrors; and doors they could open and shut and open as many times as they chose; and no name tapes sewn inside the neck of their clothes; and handbags to carry, with nail files and make-up; and no one to watch while they were eating and to collect and count the knives afterwards and say in a frightening voice, ‘Rise, Ladies.’

I did not know my own identity. I was burgled of body and hung in the sky like a woman of straw.

‘For your own good’ is a persuasive argument that will eventually make man agree to his own destruction.

We all see the faces in the water. We smother our memory of them, even our belief in their reality, and become calm people of the world; or we can neither forget nor help them. Sometimes by a trick of circumstances or dream or a hostile neighbourhood of light we see our own face.

I think it is the removal of the sun’s influence that has made us mad; the sun is blocked that used years ago to scrape the unreal shadow from our brain. So I always make a field, and I plant sunflowers, and their shadows move gently in the snow, and I pick up the pieces of dull stones that once were thoughts in precipitate flight in a friction of fire, like shooting stars in the sky.

Some days later Susan and I went to the city for an X-ray, and Susan was found to have tuberculosis, and was put in one of the small rooms down the corridor next to Margaret and to Eva who woke one morning, vomited, and died, and her mother, a small woman with bandy legs and wearing a grey coat, came to collect her things.

Conversation is the wall we build between ourselves and other people, too often with tired words like used and broken bottles which, catching the sunlight as they lie embedded in the wall, are mistaken for jewels.

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