Yesterday I read the rest ofIn Search of Adam, by Caroline Smailes. I say the rest of because I was up to chapter 3. I was up to chapter 3 and as a reader I was reeling. As I read on I realised that I couldn't put the book down - couldn't leave Jude in that awful, harrowing place. No siree. It is a novel with a very definite keep reading me factor. Despite the nature of the material. But it isn't my intention to to review the novel from a reader's perspective here - far greater souls have already done that effectively, efficiently, and most eloquently.
I am interested in this novel from a Writer's Perspective; as a first time novelist, struggling to tell my story, whose central protagonist is, like Jude, struggling to speak to those around her. Now there is an ancient Zen Buddhist adage that goes like this;
So here 's what Caroline's novel has taught me;
- That I should be braver. I should be brave enough to tell the truth and not worry that it might be upsetting. Readers, if they care, if we can make them/help them/allow them to care, will accompany the protagonist on their journey, however painful it may be at times.
- Readers will read on through their pain, will follow the journey through to journey's end, BUT we must give them hope when they get there. Caroline's novel offers hope to the reader in a most original and refreshing way - but I mustn't spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't read it yet!
- It is okay to break the rules. Break them all. Sentence structure. Grammar. Layout. My novel is dealing with language and translation, mistranslations and communication. I have had to experiment with the portrayal of language acquisition. ISoA tells me to be free to play. Incidentally, so did Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - another lovely book that everyone should read.
- Endings can be beginnings. Also see Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985)
- Make the reader fall in love with the protagonist. Somehow. But how????
- Allow the reader access into someone else's world. Let them experience another way of being.
- It is okay to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction - and for me this is the key point. No one has to know which bits are mine (real) and which bits are Ella's (fiction). Like Jeanette Winterson said somewhere, Art is all lies anyway. The moment we write the truth down it becomes a fiction, and in being a fiction there lies the truth of it!
- We must love and adore language whether it is as simple as Jude's at the outset of her story, or as complex and rich as Angela Carter's Bloody Chamber.
That's all from me on this rainy, grey, dull Sunday morning, while everyone else is at Glastonbury (the festival I've never made it to yet). If you haven't read In Search of Adam, I think you should. As a reader. As a writer. As a human being.