The extent of Bartlebooth’s ambitions are laid out with him decideing to spend ten years learning every day how to paint watercolours before heading off for twenty years to paint 500 ports in 500 different places. He then sent the pictures back on a fortnightly basis for Winckler to cut up into 750 jigsaw pieces. After he had solved the puzzles, at the rate of one a fortnight they would be repaired and then sent back to the port they were painted in and the watercolour would be dipped in water returning it to its original state. The motivation is that Bartlebooth wanted to do something that would consume his life but at the end leave no trace.
Around that central story there are so many other stories being told that this is more than just one book. You get sidetracked pleasantly into other areas before being brought back into another room in the building.
Bullet points between pages 105 – 155
* Bartlebooth is virtually housebound and is struggling to get through his jigsaws with most of the enjoyment gone whereas for his butler each ones reminds him of some ports on their twenty year painting trip
* The story is then told of Appenzzell who is related to someone living in the block who went missing in the jungle on a field trip to investigate native tribes and after returning to Paris he runs off again to join the tribe
* He spends five years living with them and following them around until the penny drops that they want him to go away and are contunially moving to more inhospitable places to try and get the message across that they don’t like him
* Another story is told of the daughter of Madame de Beaumont who killed a baby she was meant to be looking after as an au pair and fled leaving the mother to lose her mind in grief and kill herself
* The husband spends years tracking the woman down until he eventually kills her and her husband and a letter from him ends up in the hands of Madame de Beaumont explaining how he wasted his firtune tracking her down and killed her before he took his own life
It is very difficult trying to encapsulate the contents of this book but hopefully you are getting the idea that it is a mammoth series of different stories, some short and some longer, but it is enjoyable and not the sort of struggle you might have expected from something of this length and ambition.
The only thing is that you tend to just let the numerous names and room descriptions start to flow over you a bit. Not sure that is a wise thing to do. More tomorrow…