Book review: If you sit very still

If you sit very still…  by Marian  Partington
Vala Publishing Co-operative. 177 pp. ISBN: 978-1-908363-02-2. £15.99.

This review, by Ros Smith, was first published in The Christian Parapsychologist

This is an emotive book written by the older sister of one of the victims of Fred and Rosemary West, Lucy Partington. In it she describes the traumatic effects of finding out what had happened to her sister after about twenty years of not knowing.  She writes about the way in which the various police investigations led up to the certainty that this was indeed Lucy, even though the only evidence consisted of bones; and on to the tender moments when she held the precious skull of her sister in her hands, and kissed it.

Lucy was in her early twenties when she was abducted from a bus stop and never seen again.  One of her abductors, Rosemary West, was a couple of years younger than Lucy when this took place.  The book does not go into harrowing details about the torture and death of Lucy, and the other victims, which included the Wests’ own children, although enough is intimated for the reader to be able to imagine some of the horror that these poor souls had to go through before death claimed them.  But for those attending the court case nothing resulting from the evidence was left out.

Marian describes a haunting dream which she had about four months after Lucy disappeared. She writes, “I asked you where you had been.  You said, ‘I’ve been sitting in a water meadow near Grantham’.  Then slowly, with a smile, you said, ‘If you sit very still you can hear the sun move.’”   Hence the title of Marian’s moving and insightful book.

There are passages in which Marian converses with Lucy; and those of us who often have direct knowledge of the continuance of the human soul into the afterlife, would find it difficult to believe that it is anything other than a genuine communication with the spirit of her sister.  In fact, what appears to start as an imagined conversation seems to gain momentum and Marian writes, “The dialogue that follows, which took place when I had almost given up on the idea, surprised me and made me aware of the complexity of this bereavement.  It helped me to accept the loss.”

This dialogue between the two sisters is exceptionally deep and perceptive, especially the words from Lucy, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.  I thought I was the procrastinator, the perfectionist, the scholar, the aesthete, the poet, in search of all that is good, true and virtuous.  My death was seemingly out of keeping with my profession.  My earthly aspirations, who I was hoping to become, have long gone.  Besides, all this is holding you back from living – from the living who need you more than I have ever done.  I’m not being ungrateful. It’s time to be honest. I have to go.  I sent you the results of my faith, the ‘peace that passeth understanding’, the place where ‘if you sit very still you can hear the sun move.’  Now you must find that place in yourself.”  Imagination?  Or direct communication?

Looking at the dark side of human nature helped Marian to confront her own darkness, and she is very honest and brave in her ‘confession’. Without this chapter to her life, which came about after her knowledge of what had happened to Lucy, she may not have been able to come to the stage of being able to forgive Rosemary West (herself a horrifically abused young woman, who then perpetrated abuse upon her husband’s victims).

Both Marian and Lucy are gifted writers, able to hold and move the reader’s imagination to both unimaginably dark and ineffably light places. It is not a story of horror, but rather how love and forgiveness can overcome the darkness of such horror.

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