It’s been a long time since I added a post, and I guess that is symptomatic of the fact that I am gearing up for the next book, so maybe it is time for this site to morph into an author website rather than a book one. I am going to Cornwall on 27th April for the rather grandly named Constantine Literary Festival, where I will be talking about Amateurs in Eden – but I think in the context of my transition from fiction to non-fiction.
But I have been completely immersed in the next non-fiction book, which is due out in July, and will be published by Hodder. It is a collaboration with Alex and Marcus Lewis, identical twins with an extraordinary story to tell, and is called TELL ME WHO I AM. The page proofs are due any moment.
Amateurs is not completely forgotten – far from it. Among the papers that were delivered here from the house my parents sold in 1952/3 was a bundle of manuscripts of Fielding Hall’s. He was the mysterious relative of my mother’s who left her all his money, thus largely financing their Corfu/Paris years. I have always been fascinated by him, and so, once the page proofs are sorted and the new book is off the starting blocks, I intend to see what his papers reveal. He has the kind of handwriting which looks incredibly neat at first glance, then turns out to be quite hard to decipher.
page proofs arriving – hurrah
The box of Myers papers came today – they’d been stored in the attic of the house my parents sold in 1952/3, so 60 years dormant. I haven’t had a chance to look through properly, and most of them seem to be clerical documents circa 1860, so maybe fascinating for students of the Anglican church in the C19th (?) but limited for me. However, I found this in a letter obviously from one of my great grandfather’s chums soon after he was ordained. I think it is perhaps a unique explanation of the urge to marry:
“I should like to hear all about you, whether you are settled in your parish … if you are soon to be married – for I find lots of young parsons do marry just after taking Priest’s Orders. Examination time is over and they take to love-making out of pure frolicsomeness, just as children who have just received a prize stand on their heads for very glee, or fall to breaking one another’s heads as soon as they are out of School … ”
‘Pure frolicsomeness’ – so that it what it was all about. All is explained.
I’ve been doing some sorting, to see if I have any photos of the house where the box of papers were found. No luck so far, but I have unearthed some old notebooks with the pony stories I churned out age about 11. So far my favourite bit begins:
Chapter 2 (I can’t find Chapter one, but just as well, this is obviously the right place to start)
“Everybody turned to look at her in astonishment. The hammer fell and the white stallion was hers!”
It’s downhill after that, I think, but definitely a good beginning.
A fascinating email yesterday from a woman whose in-laws lived for nearly 60 years in the house my parents had in the early 50s. They had rescued a box of Myers papers from the attic, presumably left there in 1953, and would I be interested to see them. You bet! She had only made the connection after browsing the beginning of Amateurs. So I await eagerly – she and her husband are kindly bringing the box later this month. It will probably be just a bunch of old bills, but of course I am imagining all sorts of amazing revelations. The secret diary that would fill in all the gaps. Some hint of how my grandfather lost his money – letters from his blackmailer, perhaps? A demanding mistress? A drug habit? How interesting that non fiction turns out to be as much an imaginative journey as fiction ever was.
The paperback isn’t officially released till next month, but the Daily Mail have already done a kind review
AMATEURS IN EDEN BY JOANNA HODGKIN (Virago £9.99)
Hodgkin’s mother Nancy, a beautiful but passive young artist, married the egotistical, jealous writer Lawrence Durrell (author of The Alexandria Quartet) and embarked upon a relationship marked by condescension and abuse.
A brief period when they lived with the eccentric Durrell clan in Corfu brought Nancy some joy, but it was short-lived, especially after the birth of their daughter.
Although Hodgkin is the child of Nancy’s second, successful, marriage, she has mined her mother’s memoirs and verbal accounts to paint this devastating portrait of a dysfunctional partnership, with a cast list of bohemian artists and writers adding to the chaotic period drama.
Not quite sure what has happened to the side of the cover, but it is heartening. Very short reviews are harder to write than longer ones, in my experience.