In the second part of the ninth chapter of I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany confronts Roland and it somehow goes worse than I expected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of death, trauma, abuse, and grief.
The Discworld series has a weird way of coinciding with the exact thematic shit that I happen to be dealing, and I would like it to not ruthlessly drag me every time I read it, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I mean that entirely in jest, as y’all know I love it when I can connect with a fictional work on a personal level. I daresay it’s half the point of Mark Does Stuff??? And while I’m going to say upfront that I’m really not sure I’ll ever feel comfortable talking about my break-up publicly, I will say this: Pratchett captures the terrible awkwardness that arises when two people who once had some sort of relationship of any sort don’t have it anymore. This shit is brutal to read at times, but it felt raw. Real. Believable.
So, with that said, I want to talk about grief and poison. I did not expect Roland to suddenly be fine once he got home, and my take was, as I wrote at the end of the last review, that either the Cunning Man’s hatred followed him home or the Cunning Man itself. But I now think Pratchett did something much more nuanced with the text. Drawing from the repeated motif about poison, and combined with the scene that Tiffany witnesses as she approaches the Baron’s study, I feel that we’re also getting a portrait of a young man in grief, who suffered immense trauma at a young age. And not just grief, but I believe this is an example of how grief can start to become toxic and harmful.
And want to make it clear that it’s the start of something; there’s potential here for this to go awry even further than it has, but there’s also a glimpse of Roland—the one we knew—buried deep within the person who must suddenly be the Baron. Roland is so very different in the scene in this split, and I say that knowing he hasn’t had a TON of page time, either. Like other characters in this book, he asks Tiffany things that in another time would have seemed ludicrous and offensive to him. But now? It’s totally reasonable for him to demand she address him differently, to accuse her of letting his father die, and to tell others that SHE GAVE AMBER TO THE FAIRIES. Except then this happens, and it changed my perspective on him:
She softened her voice a little. “You remember something vague about fairies, yes? Nothing bad, I hope, but nothing very clear, as if perhaps it was something you read in a book, or the story that somebody told you when you were little. Am I right?”
Roland, due to the soothings and because he experienced so much trauma at a young age, LITERALLY CANNOT REMEMBER WHAT TIFFANY DID FOR HIM. It’s all a fuzzy, vague memory, if that at all. And thus, he’s not exactly going to challenge the stories about fairies or fairy folk, and I’m certain that the grief over his father’s death, piled on top of all of this, has led Roland to this exact behavior. And that’s not even considering the Cunning Man’s influence! Still, Roland’s words sting; there’s no way they’re not going to, especially when people like Miss Spruce—who is like the human version of the Cunning Man when it comes to anger and spite—are putting terrible ideas into his head. Or even Mrs. Petty, who apparently things that Tiffany did a whole bunch more than she actually did. And why do they think these things? They did long before the Cunning Man was even in the picture.
But that’s something I think the text will address later, and I’ll talk about Amber and her parents in a moment. Because lord, Roland is hurting. He’s hurting SO MUCH, and I think it’s easier for him to direct his anger at Tiffany, which is exactly what the Cunning Man wants. The Cunning Man thrives on blaming witches for everything, and right now, Roland feels safest blaming Tiffany for… well, more than just his dad’s death, which is terrible enough. So what the hell can Tiffany do here? Roland doesn’t trust her anymore, and the Petty family have their own narrative in mind. I can’t even BEGIN to imagine what Mr. Petty is saying about all of this.
Pratchett focuses on Amber at the end of this split, though, and I really appreciated it. There’s the obvious parallel here between Roland and Amber, since both characters have received the “last gift” and struggle with recalling the traumatic things that were done to them. But while Roland seems to be doubling down on the awful things he’s heard about Tiffany, Amber takes a much different route than him. As someone who tends to be more forgiving than not—I think I developed a ridiculous sense of patience a long, long time ago, most likely due to what I went through—I related to Amber’s outlook. And perhaps that’s what the fire in the bedroom meant: Amber was ready to run into the fire that is her parents and to do so with an open mind. Which is… wow, it hit hard reading that because Amber still has so much hope and love within her. From talking with other abuse survivors, I know a lot of us are concerned about this! Will we have the capacity to love and trust other people after this? Are we so broken by these experiences that we can’t ever put goodness out in the world? So Amber approaches this so willingly and intentionally with understanding in mind. That’s her path, and it’s her choice. It’s no wonder Tiffany sees some of the kelda in Amber. At just thirteen years old, Amber is already thinking on a level most of the adults around her are not.
Shit, y’all, this book is A LOT. I know I keep saying that, but it’s taken so many interesting turns! Ugh, I just want Amber to be okay at the end of all this.
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