Here was gold dust in the form of Alison Macleod, a personable speaker who has come to talk to members of a writing group about writing her latest novel ‘Unexploded’. She outlines her compelling story of a young family struggling to keep together in wartime Brighton, in May 1940
She told us how the novel was conceived, when she visited the BBC in London in 2005 jus after the bombings. She described the sense of fear in the city at that time.
Alison read extracts from her book bringing together a sense of place, introducing her characters as well describing their initial preoccupations. This she did in a wonderfully poetic style both as a writer and reader.
She talked about her year of research including listening to many recordings of Lord Haw Haw at the Imperial War Museum, reading diaries and account of Brighton in 1940 when there were rumours of the possibility of invasion by sea for nearly a year.
Although the subject matter uncovers many of the tensions and fears in Brighton at that time. Alison talks with glee about one piece of her research that uncovers the rumour that Hitler had his eye on Brighton Pavilion as his headquarters. The book had taken five years to complete.
We learn the story is about the nature of fear and it’s many manifestations at times of crisis. There are growing tensions in the marriage of Evelyn her main character who is bored and listless despite having a son. She finds solace in reading, particularly Virginia Woolf.
Her banker husband Geoffrey’s contribution to the war effort is to become a superintendent at a labour camp. Evelyn herself works as a volunteer there, against her husband’s wishes and befriends Otto, a German Jewish painter.
Regrettably I had not read the book but will do so very soon. Gold dust, too, was Alison’s generosity as an author, telling us how she started her writing career and her process of writing. I later discovered ‘Unexploded’ was long listed for the Booker Prize, a fact she may have been too modest to mention.
Yes there is festival on in Brighton currently, many art and literary events, but here was the most informative talk I have been to for ages. It was a full house at the Hatchery, a writing group that meets monthly in the Library at Hove.
A really talented author, who also teachers on the MA course at Chichester, peeling back the layers of writing a novel , responding to a lively Q and A session with ‘That’s a good question’ and her answers lively, detailed and to the point.
Brilliant in all respects. Thank you Hatchery.
Oh. and for lovers of Virginia Woolf this is my film of her garden, for those who may have missed it.
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