Last night I dreamed about a real person I had never met, Charles ‘Chic’ Stringer. I was, I think, on holiday with my husband and he took this lovely man’s hand very carefully, because we knew that Chic was now fragile… that’s all I can recall.
Chic is the subject of And Then Like My Dreams by Margaret Rose Stringer – a book like no other I have read. Entertaining, unique, breathtakingly honest, funny and heartbreaking, AND all true. In this story the blood, the glory, the coffee and the cream of love are so real it makes fiction and newspaper accounts look like feeble ghosts.
The structure of the book is also unique. While it is told, like any other memoir, in the first person, Margaret Rose (M-R) and her beloved husband, Chic, inhabit the film world, so she slips regularly and seamlessly into screenplay mode. This gives the narrative a rare light and shade quality and is often used to hilarious effect. Footnotes are scattered throughout. Occasionally they supply further information, more often they are chatty asides, a personal reinterpretation of the truth and often very funny.
I have not even mentioned that half way through Opera (my personal rave) turns up. M-R and Chic live and love mostly in their home, Australia, but they also take four magnificent trips into Europe (where M-R clearly learns to speak French and Italian fluently, but fails to mention this strength). Food, photography, engineering, cats, language, France, Spain, Italy and Germany also feature.
There is only one ending to the book, as we know from the very start. Chic is going to die. We don’t want this book to end, but it continues to be gripping, and yes, even sometimes funny, to the bitter end. M-R wrote this book so that others would know about Charles ‘Chic’ Stringer, Stills Photographer, and never ever forget him. Her own larger-than-life personality flows over every page as does her love, wonder and grief. But she has succeeded; we will envy what she had and we will never forget Chic.