I'm pleased to say that I've just finished another book, After the End of England.
I wrote this one in a very different way. Whereas normally I would spend months planning the story out, with this one, I wrote it chapter by chapter with no set idea of what was going to happen before I started writing.
The novel was inspired by a short story that was inspired by a painting a friend of mine did. And over the course of the winter, I sent him chapters as I wrote them, also unusual as I don't normally let anybody read my work until I'm certain it's finished. It was an interesting and very freeing way of working and I'm quite pleased with the results.
After the End of England is a love story to the sea. Set it Dover, it is told using split narratives though the voice of Martha Roberts and those closest to her. It explores themes of womanhood, family, relationships and community, as well as the devastating onslaught of physical and mental illness that test those caught in the undertow.
When Martha fell off the pier in Dover, aged eight, she had no idea how it would come to shape and define her. The sea becomes the place where she first proves herself, where she demonstrates that she is remarkable, that she can make the ordinary extraordinary, where she will first attempts to swim the Channel.
A constant companion, the seam moves in and out of view, from the 1940s to present day, from her first accidental baptism, to her last wet.
The sea is an escape from Martha's responsibilities as a wife and mother, causing her to question her marriage, her home, and the choices she makes. The sea creates distance, separating her from her husband and children. Yet, it consoles her when she is diagnosed with cancer, and comforts her when dementia unravels her husband's mind. The sea is also a bridge, connecting her with the granddaughter she almost didn't meet.
Through the lens of Martha's life, we see the loss of one woman's position and how she reclaimed it. We see an England that was or perhaps never was. What binds the different first-person narratives is the overpowering presence of nature and time, the power of the seam to make connections and undo them over generations.