3 out of 5 stars.
Tensions rise during a country picnic.
A strange story and, like every other piece in The Ebony Tower, unsatisfying if you want a complete narrative. Fowles leaves every story hanging but “The Cloud” is the most unsettling; it’s downright haunting.
It’s very difficult to get into (some bizarre stylistic choices don’t help) but if you can stick with it until the second half, the payoff is worth it.
O, you must wear your rue with a difference.
(p.219, title page)
I’ve told you before: I don’t know Shakespeare. Finding this reference was a key to unlocking much of this story.
Fowles has cast his tragic figure (Catherine) as Ophelia from Hamlet. In a 1994 letter to the editor in the New York Times, Colin Hugh Buckley does a wonderful job breaking down Ophelia’s line:
The knowledge that rue was widely considered in Renaissance Europe both as a contraceptive and an abortifacient (Science Times, March 8) newly illuminates Ophelia’s final scene in “Hamlet.”
She addresses the Queen: “There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me – we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays. Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference.”
Perhaps Ophelia’s deranged state and subsequent suicide are prompted by more than just heartbreak.
Other references to Ophelia will be made (see notes  and ). Continue reading