The Rules of Play

The Rules of Play - Jennie Walker In a couple of years when I will consider whether to apply for British citizenship, there will probably still be two things I will have to come to terms with before I can in all honesty consider myself a UK citizen. One is drinking tea with milk and the other understanding the rules of cricket. I don’t know which is less likely but the odds on both are not huge.The narrator of this novella drifts between her husband and her lover who are both watching the same cricket game which takes place over a few days. As she is trying to figure the rules of cricket and life she realises that neither make too much sense to her. Her husband, Alan, seems like an absolutely decent guy, and to me at least, a lot more interesting than the mysterious lover referred to as the ‘Loss Adjuster’ who comes across as an accountant type. But, hey, love is blind. On the other hand, it is really not her husband that narrator wants to find a replacement for; it’s her stepson Selwyn, who as a moody, emancipated teenager no longer needs a mother figure in his life.Now, that I’m editing my novel and sweating over every word, crying and biting my nails because there is that one odd sentence that is ruining my whole chapter, I feel I owe it to writers to read their every word. No skimming, slow reading. I have been a big of fan of doing things slowly ever since I turned thirty as I felt I got there way too soon.As I carefully read ‘The Rules of Play’ (aka ’24 for 3’) I really got the chance to appreciate the poetry of it. “Selwyn’s room: a mess. But at least it was his mess, before I started making my semi-automatic attempts to tidy up on Friday night. Now the mess is no one’s. It’s as if – which is odd, because I didn’t feel this when no one knew where he was, so why should I feel it when I do know? – he’s already moved out, gone off into the life he’s suddenly discovered is his own, and what’s left is just the brittle casing of his time as caterpillar.”Jennie Walker is actually a pen-name of UK poet Charles Boyle and many have been fooled and have praised him on how authentic his female voice was. To me that just proves that there is no such thing as a male or female voice. It’s all bollocks and can we please just let go of that already? And while we’re letting go of that we can also stop making the covers of all books written by women look so damn ridiculous.This complaint has nothing to do with the book reviewed and I’m sorry to be using this space in such a way. The truth is that I liked the book a lot and the only thing I’m going to pick on is the character of a Polish ex-au pair Agnieszka, who still lives with the narrator’s family. She has lived with them, an English family, for ten years now. She is obviously bent on making her English as perfect as possible by doing crosswords and dating eloquent English guys. Yet, after a decade in London she still speaks mostly in gerund clauses, completely unaware of the existence of past tense and says things like ‘the fish that flies’ because she doesn’t know the English word for a dolphin (which, by the way, is ‘delfin’ in Polish). I often find it that writers have no clue what an actual foreigner would struggle with while learning English (or any foreign language for that matter). They don’t even know the basics like that reading is the easiest and understanding people speaking is the hardest.