Friday, 20 July 2012
When I was in Sainsbury’s yesterday I bumped into an old friend. It was been two decades since I’d last seen her, when we stalked nightclubs together blagging free drinks from unsuitable men. I remembered that her boyfriend at the time, a very handsome guy with Kurt Cobain looks & matching melancholy, had asked her out and – when she said yes – promptly vomited. Being young (ish) and prone to love stories with an element of pain, I was always stunned that this single act of devotion had not been enough to sustain their relationship. What more, I wanted to know, could a man do if losing control of his body functions was not proof enough of love? I’ve always wanted love in my life, the kind with a capital L. Rows & recriminations, tears & tantrums and kisses passionate enough to make your mouth bleed. It’s a minor miracle that I’ve managed to stay with one man for 16 years, but luckily he never shouts, rarely swears and is an Alka Seltza to my more turbulent appetites. But the security and stability in my own life has not stopped me wanting to explore the pain and power of doomed love in my novels. As a writer I was initially unaware of the demands that haunted me, writing my narrative with an ear for the story, the dialogue, the characters but not the darker truths. Only later, when discussing the books with groups, did it become clearer that the same themes are there, the same pre-occupations. This isn’t unusual. My daughter’s favourite author, Jacqueline Wilson, has written droves of books about mother who abandoned their offspring for a variety of reasons. My own favourite, Margaret Attwood, re-visits again and again the subject of woman’s identity. Josephine Hart wrote a series of `damaged` women, wreaking havoc on innocent males. Love is at the heart of all of my novels, but it is not necessarily the most obvious story. In The Sacrificial Man the simplest, purest love is that of Lee and Alice. For Rose (The Woman Before Me) it is the love she feels for her mother. Ann in The James Version has a fatal love for William… it is these passions, thwarted as they are for various reasons, which leads the protagonist to unwise decisions and ultimate moral destruction. In Sainsbury’s I exchanged a few words with my old friends and we parted in the coffee isle. But what I really wanted to ask her was if she’d ever found another lover who vomited for her? Perhaps she would have thought it a weird question, or may even have forgotten it ever happened. But for me it was a love story.