Hallo all;

this week we have a treat for you: a guest post by the lovely Vivienne Tuffnell, whose latest book Little Gidding Girl has just released – and last time I looked, all the reviews were 5*….

Having read it myself this very afternoon, I loved it – it’s a very well-written, intriguing story with finely-crafted characters you can really identify with (or really dislike, depending on which one we’re talking about!!). Modern lit is not really my thing but Little Gidding Girl is excellent, and well worth a read.

I asked Vivienne to tell us a bit about her novel for the blog, and here is what she had to say about it.

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Coming of age or mid-life crisis? Little Gidding Girl is both and neither.

In trying to place my new novel Little Gidding Girl into those nice neat categories and genres that Amazon offers, I realised that it won’t fit into a convenient box. It has that in common with every other book of mine, too, of course, but I’d had some hopes that with the Holy Grail of having GIRL in the title, it might be a little easier to place. No such luck, eh?

The word GIRL is itself problematic. Many years ago, when I worked for the Nature Conservancy Council (now Wild Britain), I had a colleague who was a very inspiring woman, about fifteen years older than me. She’d served her time at the Greenham Peace Camp and had campaigned on a variety of things to do with conservation, social justice and nuclear disarmament. Indeed, I suspect that I may have been thinking of her when I wrote Cathy (Red Cat), Chloe’s sister, from Square Peg. I remember her frustration and increasing fury when our boss referred to us as GIRLS or worse, LADIES. “We’re women,” she’d declare, and would correct him every single time until he got the message. At 22, I was barely out of girlhood, really, but I was already married, and then pregnant in the second half of my contract, so I agreed and made a mental note that the word GIRL was problematic in so many ways.

But at what point does a GIRL truly become a woman? It’s a tricky question. It’s not got an easy simple answer. In theory, the moment a female enters her majority (in the UK, that’s anywhere between 18 and 21; one can vote at 18 but many other activities are limited to 21 and over), she becomes a woman. In some cultures, it’s at menarche or at first pregnancy, and in some, never in any meaningful legal way.

Verity, the main character of Little Gidding Girl, is 35 when the book starts. She’s married, and mother to a child verging on her teen years, but there’s something extremely youthful about her. Her hair retains the white-blonde colour of youth, and she’s pale to the point of transparency. Her plumpness is more like puppy-fat than middle-age spread and she’s in the process of losing it. She struggles with keeping her daughter in order, and is a bit of a pushover. Her job is one that any recent school-leaver might do, or indeed one that would appeal to a student, and she’s pushed around and bullied by her boss, a woman she was at school with who has become a shrewd and cut-throat business owner. She remains, in essence, a girl, unformed and a strange shadow of what she might have been. She’s frozen in a moment in time that has long gone, yet she herself has not managed to move on with it and become a woman in any of the truly meaningful ways that have nothing to do with voting age or getting into night clubs.

The mid thirties are when the first signs of mid-life can manifest, often as restlessness and dissatisfaction with how life has turned out. The average age for the classic mid-life crisis (in men, characterised by the cliché of buying a sports car or getting a new, younger, trophy-type wife or girlfriend) is 42, coincidentally also the number chosen as the meaning of life (if you’re a fan of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). At thirty-five, Verity is a little young for such a crisis but her world has changed, tilted on its axis by the death of her grandfather. Since he was the constant, rock-like figure in her life, his loss is surely a factor in triggering the change in Verity; she and her little family move into his house, left to her, and that too catapults her unconsciously into reviewing her life so far.

The novel is the story of how a girl might become a woman, when the passage of years has done nothing to bring about this change, because the flow of life that should have heralded that coming-of-age, has been dammed up and time, in a strange sense, has stopped. In the opening lines of Burnt Norton from Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot talks speculatively about the nature of time, postulating that if all time is eternally present, time is itself unredeemable. In effect, Verity’s exploration of her life and how it stalled, is a process of disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose leaves. Yet the echoes created by her searching unconsciously become more and more real and more and more disturbing as the cracks in time start to reveal a life she never lived.

At seventeen, Verity lost the future she’d craved when Nick, her enigmatic and troubled poet boyfriend, drowned at sea. At thirty-five, in a safe, humdrum and uninspired life, she finds that snatches of the life she didn’t have begin to force their way into her real life. This other life, more vivid and demanding than her actual life, begins to gather a terrible momentum as she starts to understand that her un-lived life was not the poetic dream she had imagined it might be. Doubting her own sanity as her other life comes crashing down around her in a series of disasters, Verity is forced to re-examine her past, realign her present and somehow reclaim a future where both her own early creative promise and her family can exist and flourish together. Exploring the nature of time itself, the possibilities of parallel universes and the poetic expressions of both, Verity searches to understand why and how Nick really died and what her own lives, lived and un-lived, might truly mean.

Little Gidding Girl

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Many thanks to Viv for coming out to play on the blog today. Little Gidding Girl is available in Kindle and paperback from Amazon, and having read and thoroughly enjoyed it myself, I can heartily recommend that you go buy it now!

Other than that, all progresses this side as ever, which is to say: slowly. Holly & Ivy is due to go out for betaing any minute, with hopefully a view to publishing in the next month or so. Flight is on hold till that is done and Wolf stuff cued up after that.

New Dog is being just as obstructive as he can, though he has a splendid habit of bringing me his favourite watering can at any moment when it is highly inconvenient. I have stopped putting water in it now…! With which image I shall love you and leave you.

Now go and buy Little Gidding Girl, quick – you’ll want the weekend to binge on it!

J.

 

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