"Hundreds of colours, thousands of them, perhaps — some newly exposed in the slick-wet sand, others uncovered from some hidden core as the wind scours dry ripples — each seam the touch of a brush, a figment of tree, of flower, a hat, a picnic, a fountain, a chair, and easel. Raviissant."
We experience touch in the horrible flint-sharp boulders against skin in “Rush, and sound in “The Sound of a Room”:
He gazed up, around, taking in the dimensions, and put his ear to the plasterboard wall. He walked the room's perimeter, judging ratios, gauging the shifts in ambience from door to wall, from corner to corner. He stood on a reclining chair beneath moulded cornices, hearing the air curve. Listening intently, trying to isolate each aural particularity, he bemoaned the fact that his spectrum analyser was not, for once, in the boot of the car. This space — it was a gem. (58)
Memory is critical in each of the stories, recycled into new experiences, and reworked into new memories, twisting, in and out of view, but never lost — nothing is ever lost. The setting brings history into the present day as modern characters uncover clues about the past that lead to self-awareness. In “The Prospect of Grace,” Charles Yelverton O'Connor's widow Susan Letitia might not have achieved the fame of her husband but, despite her pain, the tears that “dissolved onto the black taffeta — stained sand, and were borne elsewhere by the tidal breathing of spirit children,” she stood and survived. All of these stories are about the grace and inherent value of survival, even in the face of tremendous loss.
In “Cradle of Shadows,” a woman tries to understand how her great-grandmother could have drowned her infant born after wartime rape, while she contemplates her own abortive act in a double helix of shame and a loss that unmakes memory: “I remember a house of four generations. There will be no-one to remember me.”