My book club read Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey last month. It reminded me somewhat of Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime. This time the protagonist is not an autistic teenager but an elderly woman with dementia. It’s not a book to read lightly and with various medical issues to do with friends and relations, it was not a book I could read with much enjoyment. However, this is a first novel which leaves me in awe of the author. I can only imagine that she had a huge plan above her desk where she plotted every scene. This is a woman, Maud, whose memory is shot to pieces, whose mind is playing all kind of tricks, where the people around her won’t listen. The author’s understanding of the disease showed both compassion and huge insight.
One of my book club members, mentioned that people with dementia often focus on an unresolved issue in their lives. In this case, Maud’s sister disappeared not long after the war and Maud aches to know what happened. At the same time, Elizabeth, her friend is not living in her house. What’s happened to her?
To me, while the book darts back and forth between Mau’s youth and her old age, the insight into a world where nothing makes sense anymore, where memory is as transient as a record on repeat play, is particularly poignant. You can understand the rage as we no longer go gently into that good night. This book should be read.
I have been working on my granddaughter’s book and, although I have no idea if it will be worth publishing, I can see the end of the first draft. It will need beta testing once edited, to see if it will hold a child’s interest. Writing for children is a whole different genre and while I worked as a children’s librarian for many years, the style of writing has changed enormously. Humour, fast-paced and full of action is what is wanted. I am sad that my granddaughter, who recently finished reading all of Harry Potter, has said she doesn’t think she will ever read anything as exciting again. She’s 8 years-old. It’s not true, I hope.
I am 5.500 words into my new book. I have no idea where it will go. That’s what being a Pantser means. I am writing what comes into my mind. This evening, I rewrote a lot of it. I must move on to see what happens next. I have the feeling it may be time-slipping into Victorian London at some point. This man will feature. Who is he, what is he? I want to hear your best guesses.
On Monday I gave my first talk entitled Secrets and Lies; the story of an amazing Australian family. It was a small group of elderly ladies who settled down to listen. I took my laptop and a projector which fits into my palm to show images. The first issue was there was no black-out and we had to move from the foyer into a modern church which was barely darker. Luckily they could all see my laptop screen rather than squinting at the large screen. I spoke for an hour without leaving me time to do any reading from one of my books but they were interested and engaged. A good learning experience for me.
The most interesting thing that I learnt was that the Townswomen’s Guild began in Hayward’s Heath, West Sussex, as did the Women’s Institute, by the Suffragettes and the TG adopted their colours. I love these little snippets of history.
I have just finished reading The Singing Line by Alice Thomson which my friend found for me in a second-hand shop. What a find! It’s the story of how the telegraph line connecting Britain with Australia was strung through the middle from Darwin to Adelaide. An amazing feat considering only Stuart’s expedition had explored the centre before. He returned an almost blind and broken man, but Charles Todd had a vision and nothing was going to deter him from completing the line.
I love that great, great uncle Charles Dugmore Timms followed the same route 55 years later when he built the Old Ghan up to Alice Springs. Unfortunately, they had to move it because the line was so often delayed due to floods.
Where to begin? It’s been another crazy month. I have begun another book, apart from the children’s one I am writing. This one will mix the present day and the past. I have no title, my first three chapters are planned out but beyond is a mystery to myself and any future readers. Could it be a time-slip? It’s possible. Stay tuned.
The next four months are going to be horrendously busy. On Monday, I am speaking to the Townswomen’s Guild in Chichester on the theme of Secrets and Lies and how that has led to writing a saga spanning four generations. I will let you know how it goes.
I have also been busy with planning for our events at the Chichester Festival. We are running five events. Promote That Book; A Glimpse of Life on writing winning short stories, the one opposite, a Ghost Tour of Chichester and a creative even for children.
Yesterday, I interviewed the lovely, Beryl Kingston, for a radio show. As a successful author of thirty books with a million sold, she is the most delightful interviewee and full of stories. She has thirteen more up her sleeve which should get her to her centenary. You can read all about her here.
If that weren’t enough, I have written a short story for the Chindi book of Christmas Stories set in Sussex which we are compiling. Entries are due in by May 31st. They will then be judged blind and around 15 chosen. I hope the book will be available for sale by the autumn. Which cover do you prefer?
Lovely warm spring weather is forecast. Time to get out in the garden and away from the laptop for a change. I have been driven mad today by freezing pages, crashing, WordPress changing its format so I no longer know how to do things. I don’t mind improvements but I hate it when fundamentals are altered.
I suppose in time I will understand it but at the moment I feel I need a tutorial. Yes, I know, there’s bound to be something on Youtube. I don’t know how I did this but the image has inserted and wrapped after numerous attempts. Make notes, I tell myself too late. A glass of wine calls. I should sit on the chair in the arbour and chill.
I was delighted this week to be included on NF Reads website. You can read my interview here
Maybe it was the shingles jab I had at the beginning of the week that has me feeling utterly exhausted. I like to think of myself with boundless energy, slaying the dragons of apathy and an empty retirement.
Didn’t I stand on the packed train all the way to London last Saturday to march for the only way out of the mess that Britain is now in – a new People’s Vote? Did I not stand for three hours listening to principled politicians, broadcasters, doctors, nurses, our youth, pleading for a second chance to vote? Did I not come home energised, hopeful and with renewed purpose?
On Sunday, I agreed a contract for my first book, Search for the Light, to be made into an audiobook. A new venture and an exciting one to hear my words come alive. Was I not ecstatic that some organisation has bought a total of 48 paperbacks of The Digger’s Daughter and Sadie’s Wars? This surely means either a bookshop or library order. I should be on top of the world, but I feel drained.
I have managed to finish the first draft of a short story to submit to a new project, a Chindi book of Sussex Christmas stories. Entries are welcome until May 31st and then comes the job of selecting stories, editing and formatting the book – to be ready for Christmas.
I am also preparing talks for two Townswomen’s Guilds during the summer and have just received an offer to talk To Grimsby Writers (when I am passing through).
What I really want to get back to is writing a new novel, but first I need to finish the children’s story I promised my granddaughter and prepare talks for the Chichester Festival talks in June and the Arundel Festival in August.
Umm! Has something got to give?