Landscape with Solitary Figure by Shonagh Koea – 2014

Koea“… when you return to where you belong you find that you belong there no longer”, Landscape With Solitary Figure is the beautiful but quite ominous reminiscence of Ellis Leigh, a woman who has isolated herself in a cottage a short walk from the sea.  The narrative is both first and third person, but both from Ellis’ point of view – and we wonder occasionally how reliable that point of view is.  Ellis has a son in London, she once had a husband but he died relatively young; she wishes she had more photographs of him, she also has had a terrifying experience amongst a group of people in the place she returned to after having moved away for ten years after the death of her husband – a place she spent most of her time the second time around trying to leave.  Even the descriptions of her present place of seclusion are of somewhere that has turned out not at all how she had envisioned.  She has divested herself of friends the way she has sold off her belongings, she goes to lengths to mislead her son that all is going well, and although she tells us she feels safe you know she never will.  She was already falling ill and seemingly too insecure to resist when falling in with a crowd – and a man – who she feared, we read that even when her son was small she felt isolated and marginalised.  Her best memories are those far away on a brief trip to Paris, and she is happy her son has managed to ‘get away’.  The moving from first to third person and the detailed and repetitive descriptions of incidents and places add to the reader’s recognition of Ellis’ mildly neurotic outlook.  Landscape With Solitary Figure is beautifully produced, illustrated with flowers from the overgrown garden that is Ellis’ hiding place, and is a fine rendering of a fragile and damaged life.

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