A mother and daughter circle each other, bound by love, separated by fatal violence. Dismayed by the indifference she sees in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, trying to understand the real impact of their deaths. Meanwhile Anna’s daughter, killed by a violent boyfriend, […]
My guest post as part of the Twice the Speed of Dark blog tour, hosted today by Linda’s Book Bag – absolutely full of great stuff for book lovers, so do take a look. Thank you so much for hosting, Linda.
I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Twice the Speed of Dark by Lulu Allison, not least because I think it’s a fabulous title!
Published by Unbound on 24th November 2017, Twice the Speed of Dark is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.
Twice the Speed of Dark
A mother and daughter circle each other, bound by love, separated by fatal violence.
Dismayed by the indifference she sees in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, trying to understand the real impact of their deaths.
Meanwhile Anna’s daughter, killed by a violent boyfriend, tells her own story from the perplexing realms of death, reclaiming herself from the brutality.
Anna’s life is stifled by heartache; it is only through these acts of love for strangers that she allows herself an emotional connection to the world.
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Thank you for this lovely, thoughtful review.
Today I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Lulu Allison’s debut novel Twice the Speed of Dark, which was published last week. I primarily read for my own enjoyment and receive many review requests that I turn down as they just do not grab me – however after I read one small excerpt of Twice the Speed of Dark I was hooked, and had to read the rest. This thoughtful, lyrical novel, in which a mother and daughter separated by fatal violence circle each other, still bound by love, will stay with you long after you have closed the pages.
The story follows Caitlin, killed by a violent boyfriend, who slowly unfurls her story from beyond the grave. As Caitlin pieces together what happened to her, and the slow erosion of herself in an abusive relationship that culminated in her death, she pieces herself back…
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…is set. Twice the Speed of Dark will be published on 24 November 2017. Digital copies and advance paperbacks will be available before then. I am starting the process of putting together a blog tour – for those who don’t know, there is a wonderful world of book bloggers who give their time and effort over to books and some of them have agreed to host me or Twice the Speed of Dark, which is a fantastic way of getting people to know about it. I will post links to their sites once confirmed.
See you soon!
I am so thrilled with the final design for the cover of my book Twice the Speed of Dark. Mark at Mecob Design has found a way to represent subtle aspects of the book really beautifully. I couldn’t be more pleased.
Because of my background people have often asked if I wanted to do the cover myself. I knew I never would – it is a particular professional talent that goes way beyond ‘being an artist’. But I feel that Mark has clearly shown great artistry as well. I know for sure I would never have come up with such a complex yet simple and compelling image. I will of course, be flinging it around with abandon – please don’t let me stop you if you feel like doing the same!
Twice the Speed of Dark will be published on November 24th 2017 – I will of course keep you updated.
On Monday I will be appearing at the Henley Literary Festival at an event on the theme of Local Roots. I grew up in the Chiltern Hills in a village called Stoke Row which is not far from Henley. The landscape is part of Twice the Speed of Dark – not quite (as the cliché goes) a character, but certainly part of the scenery flats.
I am delighted to be included in the festival, a little bit intimidated at the thought of being taken seriously, even if it is mostly because I happen to have been born locally.
Chalk hills don’t have streams. When we visited other rural landscapes, I found the presence of streams and waterways kind of exotic. The Chilterns had wells. The house we lived in when I was born was called the Pump House – a little cottage in woodlands above Watlington. It was built, I believe, above one of the deepest wells in England.
In Stoke Row there is the Maharajah’s Well, a strange and wonderful object. The tale was that someone from a nearby village (Checkendon, as it happens) saved the Maharajah of Benares’ son from drowning and in gratitude, the Maharajah, moved by the pathos of the dirty, waterless villagers, organised and paid for the digging of a well. It was capped off with an Indian architectural housing complete with elephant and dome, and a beautiful little hexagonal cottage for the well keeper. I don’t imagine I was the only Stoke Row-ian who was baffled by the benefit to our village, when the good deed was done by an inhabitant of another village some three miles away. But it could be that, with regards to the address of the story’s hero, I have got it wrong and thus, am the only Stoke-Rowian who is perplexed in this way. (Certainly, there was a widely held belief with regards to the drowning/saving part of the story.)
I think that I am writing about wells as a response to the idea of roots. Both represent ways to reach water. In fact, roots in chalk lands, don’t go deep, they go wide. When there is a storm, beech trees fall, levering up great plates of earth, an underworld sun of clay and soil that has made the best of shallow topsoil above the un-nourishing mass of chalk. Wells, in traversing that same lifeless, permeable mass, go deep.
The Chiltern Hills, my childhood home, are as close to the territory that hold my roots as any where else I have. Being white, middle class, generically southern, with broad British ancestry, tales of heritage and belonging are not my birthright. Being opposed to nationalism and uncomfortable with patriotism, this is easy to accept. But my soul does have roots in that landscape even if generations of family do not.
I love it, not because I belong there, or because it is part of me. But because it is one of the first ways I learned of beauty, and that is, like water, something that makes us too.
(Or: Applying The Essentialising Filter ™️ of bereavement)
It is now a month since my father died. Grief came in unanticipated form, insinuating itself subtly, damply, into the walls, floors and ceilings, draped light as a sea fret over the roof tiles and filming the windows. It is as though my present and my past are living under gauzy occupation.
One afternoon at the hospice, shortly before Dad died, I wandered through the gardens lured by an elusive thought that glimmered in my peripheral vision, or appeared hazily in the unfocused space between my eyes and the plants. I chased it like a gormless cat, wittering through trees and past flowerbeds, trying to hook imaginary dragonflies out of the air. I had a sense of anxiety that took me a while to catch. Moving, pacing about, allowed the fragments to coalesce: Is there anything I need to know from Dad? Is there anything I will regret when he is no longer here to ask?
I thought about this for some time. My conclusion was that I already knew what I needed to know. I knew about our relationship; I had, after all, witnessed it, helped make it. I had told him often enough that I loved him – he couldn’t doubt it. There was no family history that seemed crucial enough to uncover. His privacy was not suddenly up for public revelation. What I did not know about him was not for me to know.
People often talk of regrets when a loved one dies. My wondering amongst the gardens of the hospice was, it turns out, a futile attempt to catch this before it could happen to me. As so often in life, I am smart-arse enough to imagine I can improve on the natural order and then discover with surprise that the natural order is more wily, more subtle, more complex than my speculations had allowed.
The gauzy shroud of grief acts as a 360-world filter. It transforms not how the insta-squares of the surface look but what we see inside; in the walls, the floors, the ceilings. In the marrow and the heart. I have spent many hours this last month thinking that Dad was so much better, so much more than I had realised. How I regretted my cloddish lack of appreciation. These thoughts are the lures that lead to biting onto the hook of guilt.
The newly dead are transformed through the membranous filter that comes between life and death. They become essential, pure, shriven of the clunky mechanics of actually being alive. When we think of them we may not call to mind the annoyances or the disappointments. It would seem churlish to do so. It is as though the faults in our connection, if they ever existed, can be laid as errors at our own feet. In realising this, I have managed to avoid guilt. But my view has shifted. I know more about my Dad now than I did before he died, because I see him in his essential form.
I am left struggling with a feeling close to outrage that things will go back to normal. This process is so fundamental, so insinuating, so life-changing. Going through such a time it is hard to realise there will not be some kind of result at the end. At the very least a beautiful insight: a sense of purpose perhaps, a wish fulfilled, a change of fortune. But no. Life will go on as normal, there’s no prize for having been bereaved. It serves no end. Grief is not a process that leads somewhere, it is an interruption. When I get past my somewhat childish annoyance that this horrible effort is not part of a bigger plan, I know really that this is ok. I watch over myself with curiosity as the sway and swing of life changes me. I am not made better or worse but I am tempered by it. And I am still blessed.
As I stopped writing this, presuming it complete, I had an idea that there may after all be a reward. The fundamental shift I have experienced in the soul of my life, the groaning dread at going ‘back to normal’, these could after all lead to a change. I dread returning to consuming chores, scratching my head to come up with alluring ways to bend the people of social media into potential buyers for a book that hasn’t come out yet. I dread deciding whether I need to get another cleaning job to pay for the second-hand car that I bought on a credit card so that I could have the freedom to visit Dad whenever necessary. I dread giving up the freedom that car has brought. I dread all the bloody thinking about it, about money, about leveraging what could be called progress from next to nothing – ideas and pennies. This big, fundamental shift, the trick-turns of new ways of seeing, the Essentialising Filter of death make it entirely possible to imagine refusing to do these chores. Just don’t. Do what matters: write, read, earn a bit of cash. Breath in, hang out with loved ones. Let progress look after itself. What matters is in the bones, in the eaves, in the air. I can feel the weight of it shifting inside. I can see it, glinting, precious, in my peripheral vision.
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