ellie s lee recent comments

written 9 days ago

I agree with you, Rob, had this been a film you might well have started with the accident which would have made a great visual impact. I can just imagine it, slightly blurry focus as the title and intro fade Bec cycling down the back alley careering along at full pelt, pan to a quick glimpse of car, then suspense as we realise what’s going to happen just a moment before she does, but as it stands, as a book, I much prefer your current beginning, Bec’s strong distinctive voice, her wry, off-beat humour; I liked getting to know something about the person on the bike, it was quite important to me that I did.

There are some very neat touches in your writing and amongst the things I particularly liked in Bec’s first bit:

I liked the almost throw-away Polish/Ukranian comment in your opening paragraph, in fact her humour throughout.

‘I live in Winnipeg, the world’s biggest small town.’
You say a lot there in very few words.

‘He looked past me, and his panic level suddenly increased. He turned chickenshit and ran back to his car.’
Nice, expressive.

‘I pulled my iPhone out of the pocket of my cycling jacket (high-visibility fluorescent yellow for all the good it did me) and saw that the screen was cracked.’
I liked the ‘(high-visibility fluorescent yellow for all the good it did me)’ and can hear Bec saying it, gives a kind of consistency to her.

‘I’m just – um – a bystander.’
I found this quite striking and was mulling it around my head even before Bec picks up on it and says,
‘For some reason, I was struck by the strangeness of the word bystander, and how it’s usually
phrased as “innocent bystander.” How come no one ever mentions guilty bystanders? I bet there are plenty of those.’
(I didn’t realise until afterwards that you’d already highlighted that bit in your pitch so it was good that it stood out for me independently)

‘I was also a bit pissed off that the guy was so aghast at the thought of being my partner.’
That made me smile, and again it’s consistent.

‘Once a year, Mother feels the need to meddle in the life of someone other than me, and jets off to annoy Anna for a week.’
That made me smile too.

I thought the hand-made business card was a lovely touch and (we learn later) exemplifies the difference between Bec and Warren.

I felt the contrast worked well between Bec and Ingrid, Ingrid’s calm, Bec’s energy even in the way they speak, their sentiments, the expressions they use.

Things that didn’t quite work for me:
With my Slavic face and muscular body, I look like a 70s Olympic athlete from the Communist Bloc, but I’m not on steroids, I’m all natural.
I didn’t think the ‘with my’ in ‘with my Slavic face’ sounded quite right. a bit formal maybe, it didn’t sound natural (no pun intended). I’m not sure what you could use instead “ ’cos” maybe?

‘They were a religious sect that settled in Manitoba and elsewhere to escape persecution in
Is there any way you can slip this in less obtrusively?

‘I work for an auto parts supply company, and the idea of anyone from there being alone
inside my place gave me the creeps’
Is it significant where she works in this context or would she be equally uncomfortable if anyone from her place of work (no matter where she worked) went into her home? As it stands it sounds as though working specifically for an auto parts supply company makes it somehow worse than if she worked elsewhere; if this is the case then why? It would still makes me wonder why the one would follow on necessarily from the other (and thereby distracts me momentarily from the story).

Warren’s first bit:

I thought the contrast between the two of them was very well done and liked Warren’s reaction as he went to Bec’s flat for the first time.

‘I recognized a few names like Margaret Atwood and Douglas Coupland. I’ve never read their
books, but I’ve heard of them because they’re Canadian. The iPad was in the drawer like Bec said. I’d never seen one up close, but I recognized it from the TV commercials.
just emphasises the difference between them.

‘Bec seems like a nice person. Too bad she doesn’t like hockey.’
I loved that, made me like Warren too. A nice, decent bloke. A simple soul (in the nicest sense).

I read the whole of the first chapter you have posted here and enjoyed the hesitant way the relationship between Bec and Warren is developing. There were a couple of things I noticed as I was reading and I hope you don’t mind me pointing them out. I thought the telephone conversation between Bec and her sister although realistic was lengthy and didn’t convey a great deal to the reader. I noticed the same thing later on several occasions with conversations between Bec and Warren and wonder if these might be condensed or worked more succinctly without losing anything from the story. (Again, the dialogue might work brilliantly on film but didn’t so much for me when I read).

I also wonder if sometimes go into too much detail, for instance:

‘All right, crisis number one averted – now for number two. I’m the Controller at AA Auto Parts – yes, the name is a pathetic attempt to get top billing in the yellow pages. I handle all the accounting and approve all payments, including the payroll on every second Friday. Gord has a file labeled, “IF BEC GETS HIT BY A BUS” with all my system passwords, notes on procedures and contacts at accounting temp agencies, but there was no need to use that now. We outsource our payroll to a service provider so all I needed to do was review everyone’s hours and send in a file. Fortunately, our network is on a cloud computing platform accessible over the web. All of our employees had recorded their hours – I have them well-trained – so I submitted the file and e-mailed everyone assuring them they would be paid later today. Then I e-mailed Gord, telling him I hurt my ankle and might not be into work on Monday. His reply said simply, “NP.”’
This seemed to be a bit of an information overload.

Having said that there’s a lot to like about Bystanders, amongst many others the interview scene, Warren delaying his meal to collect Bec, and lines, wry observations, like ‘I’ve never understood what my parents saw in each other. I guess it was just love.’

You have created two real and sympathetic main characters and have credible premise. Your writing is humorous and flows well (though I’m not sure I would describe the book as a comedy) and it would be interesting to see how the relationship between Bec and Warren develops. For me though, I just think some judicious pruning would be beneficial.

Wishing you all the best
Ellie view book

written 41 days ago

First, many congratulations on having this listed for the Mylexia unpublished novel award – that’s some achievement! University friendships which develop and extend into adulthood are an enduring and popular theme and you draw us into your book within the first couple of dreamy paragraphs. Your writing seems to flow naturally and you definitely capture the spirit and feel of the time injecting a contrasting and more energetic pace in later chapters. What a place to leave us though. You have left it at such a tantalising point that I’m just going to have to email you for the remaining chapters to find out what happens!

Good luck with this, Alice, and again many congratulations on your nomination.

Ellie :-) view book

written 42 days ago

You know what I think from before. Magnificent. view book

written 61 days ago

How do you forgive yourself the unforgivable? That was the particular part of your pitch which made me want to read, your hook if you like, and I very much liked your title too. I really enjoyed the first section of your first chapter, it was that that made me want to read on, very well written with some great scene-setting and excellent descriptions.

‘She looked up and saw a figure approaching, an elderly woman, weathered from the harsh Australian climate, face like a crumpled brown paper bag. She wore a large straw hat, and the sun's beams stabbed through the holes, creating little spots of light that danced on her face. Her floral dress swooshed from one side to another as she waddled.’

What I thought clever was the way you lead, almost trick the reader (or this reader anyway!); we first see people and events through Liz’s eyes, perfect mother, weird brother etc but eventually these first impressions are dispelled as the characters start speaking for themselves and they become more rounded. Your characterisation is well observed, adolescent insecurity, haaah, adult insecurity too, just that adults veil it more.

So, nitpicks and random observations:

‘Would he or she would be reduced to playing …’ - typo? Two ‘would’s.

‘But life's like that, she thought, a series of events that you don't see coming, but that alter the direction in which you're heading forever.’
I read this a couple of times. Something about it made me stumble a bit, I don’t know why, I think it’s something to do with the ‘that’s and ‘which’s.

I like the way you throw people’s thoughts in.

‘At her old school, she'd been conscious for years that her house was much, much nicer than those of most of her friends. Their places seemed so small and she remembered once asking her mum why. It was the first time she could recall hearing the term “housing trust”. She didn't fully understand it, but it did make her feel special when she realised that her parents actually owned the enormous two-storey house that the four of them lived in, while most of her friends' parents didn't own a single brick of the tiny units they occupied. She didn't feel better than them. God only knew, there were enough other things in her life she'd love to change. But it did make her feel a tiny bit special.’

I know I misuse commas, throw them in all over the place as I dart off with a fresh thought or stop for breath but using the paragraph above as an example I wonder if a purist would suggest removing the comma between ‘school’ and ‘she’d’, ‘ understand it’ and ‘but it did’, and after ‘God only knew’.

Even given the state of Bill and Judy’s relationship I was surprised that he and Carol were ‘allowed’ to go camping together, even with the kids and in separate tents.

‘Nothing else mattered.’

‘The words struck Bill like an arrow to the heart’

These sentences just seemed a little bit clichéd.

‘Not the policeman or fireman she had envisioned’.
Hah, I was so disappointed when Liz thought that. Made her seem far more shallow than I thought her/wanted her to be!!

‘Skirt swooshing around her legs’. I think because I liked it so much in the first chapter I noticed you use a similar phrase in this chapter too.

You really capture the insecurity of childhood/adolescence. Funny how the world seems then but it’s so true. I’m still in touch with half a dozen school friends and we can now admit we all thought we were the only ones struggling and that everyone else had it sussed. Interesting how we viewed ourselves back then and how others perceived us.

I wasn’t too keen on ‘Motherly ESP’.


As I read it struck me at some points that this could stand alone as a story for teenagers and I know this isn’t what you intended so maybe there are places when the focus is, for me at least, too much on the kids - I think I would enjoy reading more if there was a little more interweaving with the ‘adult’ chapters in some sections. I also thought whilst I was musing later, what a brave and ambitious undertaking this is, not only do you have two different times to juggle but also many different points of view.

So, those are my thoughts as a reader and thoughts are just what they are, I have no particular knowledge or expertise. I’ve read all that you’ve posted here and would read on, wanting to know exactly what it was that happened back then – you’ve left us hints and pointers but will they guide us in the right direction or is it another trick, a false trail?

Well done, Annabel, and good luck.
Ellie view book

written 63 days ago

Well, it worked! I normally react to spam by not reacting or else a polite rejection but yours was innovative and cheeky so I took a look at your profile page, was intrigued by what you’d written there and so read on. I should perhaps preface this by saying that Dan Brown type novels are not my usual kind of reading so I don’t know how useful this will be to you.

I read a chapter and a half and thought it was well written, an easy, fluid writing style which suited the pace and style of the story. I liked your descriptions and thought you used some original and unusual metaphors/similes though there were just a couple which appeared to me to be a bit clunky and over-thought. Another reason for reading was your title which I very much liked and the intrigue and misdoings at the Vatican part of your pitch was also a pull (and topical a couple of years or so ago). Hah, I followed the link on your profile page – great casting! Nitpick-wise I spotted a lower case ‘roman’ which I think should be ‘Roman’.

I know people who would really enjoy this and can see how Soft Comes the Wolf would appeal to readers of this genre.

I wish you all the best
Ellie view book

written 69 days ago

I love the off-beat quirkiness of this, the sharp almost throw-away humour but underneath all that I think there’s a sensitivity there as the story develops and we learn more about Dan and Amber.

You have the ability to change from almost flippant to verging on the shockingly profound. Lines like ‘Not Neville, never Neville no more.’ casually thrown in made me smile as I read. It reminded me of ‘Wild Rover’ and my under-age drinking days, made me want to stamp my foot before the ‘never’ or bash something against the table four times.

And then, in complete contrast, there’s ‘The men were so old they sometimes had pieces missing. Eyes, legs, lungs, prostates, wives, consciences... Reduced men, men reduced to this. They travelled there to find another piece, to put themselves back together again.’ Phwoo, gasp of admiration at both the observation and the way it’s written. Great lines.

I like the form of The Baggage Carousel, the way you switch between Dan and Amber so we see things from both points of view, their foibles and insecurities. I felt involved, trying to read between the lines, to second guess and I cared what happens to them. Your title is fantastic and suits your book perfectly on many levels - we all go round and round, ever more battered waiting for a kindly soul to recognise and rescue us.

Your book came highly recommended to me by two of my favourite people here and I can quite see why. Good luck.

Ellie view book

written 75 days ago

I read this twice, once to get the feeling and the flow and then again in a more focused way. Your writing is fluid and atmospheric with some lovely descriptions of both places and people –concise and not overly-flowery yet sensitive. You were right, it was a topic that interested me and I even did a little reading around it thanks to Google. Whilst I was musing about The Light and The Dark afterwards it crossed my mind in that it might make a convincing one-off TV drama.

Notes and observations:

I very much like the title (though there is another book of a similar title on autho, I discovered). I think it suits your book perfectly.


The very first thing I jotted down was ‘Atmospheric’.

On first reading there was something about your first paragraph that made me stumble but I wasn’t quite sure what. On second reading I think this was this sentence that tripped me up:
‘The embers of their cigarettes and the dying autumn light which caught the ends of a coat or a pale hand were the only signs of them.’

It follows:
‘Her footsteps clipped the stone pavement and added to the din, making her feel conspicuous to the men standing under shadowed doorways and down alleyways. The embers of their cigarettes and the dying autumn light which caught the ends of a coat or a pale hand were the only signs of them.’

I think by the time I got to the end of the second sentence I had to do a quick re-track to see who the final ‘them’ referred to. The words and feel are lovely but once I was in analytical mode rather than just ‘reading’ I did wonder about the meaning of the sentence. Should it be ‘in the dying autumn light’ (rather than and) or ‘a glimpse of the end of a coat or a pale hand in the dying autumn light’, something like that? As it stands to me it reads as though the dying autumn light was one of the signs of ‘them/the men’.

Just a fleeting thought, I also wondered about ‘embers of cigarettes’. Do cigarettes have embers? (Genuine question, I don’t know). Fires have embers, yes, but cigarettes I am unsure of. Having said that I can’t think of another single word for it and I can understand why you would want to avoid as being hackneyed ‘glowing’ anything.

‘Almost there! Almost there, she thought, as the turn for Marlborough Street came into view.’ I like the way you do this and it reminded me, probably because it’s been mentioned on a thread recently, of Mrs Dalloway, the scuttling along and thinking.

‘The gold letters above its door stood out from the failing light like haloes on the statues of saints.’ I really liked this.

‘The rain was her only companion and it pattered a broken rhythm around her as she wrung her hands.’ I liked this very much too.

‘Nice to meet you,’ – I wondered if this was too modern a phrase for the period, slightly informal. I don’t actually ‘know’ if it is or not, just a feeling I had as I read.

‘There was no rise or fall in his tone; the words sounded measured to every degree.’ I thought this was very good and liked whole of that paragraph and description of James

I loved the ‘empty stage’ paragraph’ too, very good indeed.

‘despite how dreadful she had spoken those lines.’ Should this be ‘dreadfully’?


‘She could breath easier and didn’t feel so small’ - breathe easier?

‘Too her tired mind’ – to her tired mind?

‘She hung her coat, dress, and drawers on the bedpost for lack of anywhere else to put them’

You mentioned a wardrobe in the previous paragraph which made me wonder why she hadn’t put them there, I was distracted briefly by ‘for lack of anywhere else to put them’ wondering why she hadn’t hung up the dress at least (not her coat, her coat was wet). My mind wandered momentarily away from the story.

‘She must do play Oedipus again.’ Do you need to remove the ‘do’ from here?

Again, a lovely description of Aisling as she washes and I really liked ‘bedabbled with freckles’ I think your descriptions are very good. As an aside, and it is only a thought, I wonder if stripping off and washing in the freezing cold would be a pleasure, something to look forward to or if it would be something you did as quickly as possible.

I think here and again later in Ch3 you do an excellent job of portraying the different attitudes of Aisling and the other girls around her, her naïve and idealised view of Love contrasted to their desperate reality.

‘tall and built’ – tall and well built?

‘No one, as far as Aisling could tell, received their post on the same day.’ – quibbling here ‘on the same day it arrived’?

Letter (Autho Ch3)

Very bold suggestion from James and a clever way to introduce it. It made me think of VW again as I have her floating around in my head at the moment, the changing sex idea had echoes of ‘Orlando’.

Your Ch3

Very much liked second paragraph and ‘There was no passion in him. He spoke them in the way a vicar preached at church’ describes it exactly.

‘Before hated England’. On first reading I was briefly distracted again wondering if anyone would actually articulate it in that way, then I read on just a little way and understood why you’d phrased it like that. As it stands you have:

‘If we can stage the play before hated England we will show them up to the world; prove that Ireland is more liberal, more artistic, more literary. And I say hated, not that any one of us hates an Englishman, but because our two countries hate each other as light and dark hate one another. The staging of it will be Ireland’s victory, but ours too, because the Abbey is
only small and its funds even less while Britain’s theatres are large and their income an empire.’

For me I think the ‘hate’ theme would be stronger if ‘I say hated, not that any one of us hates an Englishman, but because our two countries hate each other as light and dark hate one another.’ came directly after ‘hated England’ and ‘we will show them up to the world; prove that Ireland is more liberal, more artistic, more literary.’ came a little later in the paragraph, possibly, even, at the end of it.

I did like the paragraph by the way, I thought it was very powerful, ‘and their income an empire’ was very clever.

Did you write ‘motionaless’ on purpose (it has a nice rhythm) or were you intending ‘motionless’?

‘I think he has a girlfriend. I saw him holding hands with a woman.’

I’m a bit concerned about this. I don’t think back then a ‘respectable woman’ would be seen emerging from a gentleman’s room in the morning holding hands. If a young woman was in his room I would imagine Aisling to presume her either his wife, sister or a woman of ill repute, not his ‘girlfriend’ and again I wonder if the term ‘girlfriend’ is too modern for the period.

I would just like to mention again though how well you contrast Aisling’s lofty view of ideal love to those of her fellow Chorus members.

‘Frigid’ again, I wondered if it was too modern a word for Aisling.

‘The tail of her eye’ I very much liked that expression.

‘He had lost himself, the words being as rigid as his nature and yet not meeting the fluidity of his thoughts.’ I loved that.

‘Weary of being alone with him’ – wary of being alone with him?

‘So do those days work for you’ seems too modern to me.

‘There was something holy in its emptiness.’ Nice.

‘I leant it at school’ – I learnt at school?

‘It was definite, sure, that he was right.’ Do you need the comma after sure?

‘Let’s go back inside.’ I thought they were already inside, inside the theatre.

Your passion for your subject is evident in your writing, loving even, and you treat it with respect and a certain delicacy. The plot is starting to develop and makes me interested in knowing more about James’ interest in Aisling and the tensions which develop as they race to be first to produce the play. I was happy to read The Light and The Dark, thank you for asking.

Ellie view book

written 83 days ago

I’ve read several chapters and was very impressed – raw, instinctive writing with great dialogue. I think you nail the characters and their environment and come up with some really original phrases. I was interested in your construction, the use of two first persons is quite unusual I think. Yes, there are bits and pieces that need looking at but the words just seem to flow out of you in a very natural way. Good luck with your writing, I hope you do well.
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written 96 days ago

It’s not often that I am taken so deep into the male psyche but you have achieved this with Richard; he seems so real, so vulnerable, so imperfect, so human - so believable. I think you are consistently strong on characterisation and relationships; Richard’s relationship with Sarah, Clive, Laura, Beth all of them well drawn, but for some reason it was his relationship with his father that intrigued me most. I love your current title, Beauty Beyond Reach, and was engaged from the start.

A few things I noticed on my way through:

Ch 6
‘hangars’ should be ‘hangers’

‘curiosity peaked’ should be ‘piqued’.

‘loathed’ I think you mean ‘loath’

‘seldomly’ you don’t need the ‘ly’ – ‘seldom’ is fine on its own.

Ch 14
a pair of cords (not ‘chords’)

Ch 17
I was never sure how to spell ‘discreet’ and often used to spell it ‘discrete’ but since I’ve joined Authonomy I have learnt that ‘discrete’ means ‘separate’ and ‘discreet’ means . . .well, ‘discreet’!! I think you need ‘discreet’ here. (Yes, I know, it doesn’t look right does it, true though!)

‘A doctor hones it to view’. The expression I think you’re thinking of is ‘hove into view’ (past tense) or in the present tense ‘heaves into view’.

Ch 19
‘Small chutes of recovery’ did you write ‘chutes’ deliberately for effect? It’s more usually ‘shoots of recovery’

Ch 20
‘His fled bled disappointment’ – I wasn’t sure what this meant.

Ch 21
I must read this again but on first reading it wasn’t immediately apparent that he’d lost his job.

Ch 28
I wasn’t sure who Sue was and wondered if she was Owen’s niece.

People often say in conversation ‘I was sat at the table’, or ‘I was stood at the window’ - many people, increasingly so, and I understand that there is much discussion at the moment about accepting what people say, common usage if you like, as being ‘correct’, development of language, that kind of thing (like accepting ‘literally’ to mean not just ‘literally’ but ‘virtually’ which has recently crept into the dictionary). However, given the general tone of your writing I feel the traditional usage would be more appropriate in Beauty (i.e. I was sitting/seated at the table, I was standing at the window).

I read the first couple of chapters back in the summer and note from your profile that you have re-worked some because of comments received about timelines (it does seem different). This is just a thought, by no means as strong as a suggestion, just a fleeting thought which wafted unbidden across my mind, have you considered starting the book at your current Chapter 2 which has quite an impressive opening paragraph and is already a start of sorts?

Stylistically this is interesting and I see exactly what you are aiming for. For the most part it seems to come naturally to you and when you are at your best it’s like sitting with a glass of champagne in a bath of bubbles in front of an open fire, but if I were to nitpick every so often I found the odd word or phrase that jarred slightly, as though you were reaching for something you didn’t quite grasp, for example towards the end Richard was ‘ponderous’. In context, to me he was thinking deeply (pondering) rather than feeling heavy or awkward (ponderous). Now maybe he felt he was carrying a (metaphorical) weight, maybe you were playing with the language, but because I stopped to reflect it deflected me momentarily from the story which was a shame. Similarly you sometimes carry your distinctive style, so effective in your narrative, into some of your dialogue which distracted me and in the case of Clive didn’t ring true.

Please, please, I would not want you to think for one moment that any of the above observations stopped me enjoying Beauty Beyond Reach. I was absorbed from the beginning and read to the end within a few days, often cursing myself when I was too tired to read any more and longing to get back to the story – which is the sign of a good book, I always think. I commend your efforts and admire your aspirations, it’s just that I think with some tweaking Beauty could be even better.

I wish you all the very best.
Ellie view book

written 96 days ago

Poignant and brave written in a painfully honest and almost conversational way, a bit like a series of diary entries. Usually I read a book I think I will like and deliberately avoid reading previous comments so as not to be influenced. This time I just had to see which book had gained such high praise from the notoriously difficult-to-please, RM and I agree with every word he says.

On a personal note I hope you are soon well enough to continue.

All the very best
Ellie view book

written 104 days ago

It’s very interesting to read The Singularity of Sasha in its current form and I am really looking forward to seeing how you develop this. For me you are without doubt a powerful writer who appears to love our language, seeming to take pleasure in playing with words and constructions, testing it, seeing how far you can push it. Your descriptions and characterisations are equally strong and there’s an ominous and insidious plot emerging here. Sometimes you challenge and it’s good to be stretched, more a reflection of my limitations as a reader than any implied criticism of your writing. If we are never challenged we never learn and if we stop learning, then what’s the point? In all, a fascinating WIP from an impressive writer and which promises to become an excellent and intriguing book


For what they’re worth, here observations from chapter three onwards.

Favourite bits:

Excellent description of James/Jimmy.

‘The sour of his breath’ – I love the way you do this, I’ve never known ‘sour’ used as a noun before and think it’s so effective. I think I mentioned in my message, you did something similar earlier in the story and it was equally as effective.

‘A cowl of soot’ – very nice

‘Most days Sasha felt like a knotted chain. Not something delicate and precious sought by hopeful fingers from a beloved box lined in pink and attended by a twirling plastic ballerina, but more akin to the angry and heavy spool of an upturned ship at the bottom of the sea. Barnacles. Long-legged denizens of the deep clambering over her disjointed links.

She’d once had such a box.’

Ah, all little girls had or hankered after such a box, loved little girls from safe, secure homes. Clever contrast between life before and life now.

‘Sasha tried to silence herself .Not much good that did. She failed as always, and, as always, there was no one there to notice had she succeeded. The first point was a struggle long in the accepting or even understanding, while the latter was a revelation that came like new breath after a dive deep into a place where the bottom shimmered with promises colorful and mysteries much more fantastical than that dun refuse left behind back up above on dry ground

Loved the whole paragraph.

‘Up into the sky the detritus of panicked civilization flew and took wing.’ Yes!

‘Newton was denied.’ I came back to put this bit in. Read it twice and liked it. I kept thinking about it so it has to be in here along with my other favourite bits.

‘, those yesterday soldiers that still marched steadfast against tomorrow.’ Another big Yes!

‘could only be guessed and speculated and pondered and pored over’
Fabulous sound and rhythm.
‘There had once been growth and abundance where now there was only a wasteland of the twisted and torn, scarred and scorched.’

I have now got to the stage, as I do in books that I really like, when I’m just copying far too many favourite bits. Difficult to stop though.

Love the repetition of ‘For Sasha’

‘An imperfect surface slightly creased with the memory of the fine thing it once was’ Nice.

‘Or so Sasha dreams.’ I just liked the simplicity of this.

‘From her place between this world and the next, his apology was soothing. A single, simple comfort. It was enough. She stretched out her hand to find and take his.’ I liked this a lot.

‘The full’ – as with ‘the sour’ I like the way you do that

Then I just made a note: ‘Confusion, horror, revulsion, squalor, depth of characters’. I really like the way you blur and haze dream, trip and reality.

‘Closer scrutiny likely would have revealed more, but this was a place where scrutiny was best left undone.’ Neat

‘Doing her best to understand the here and now of them and her, she studied the mirror
behind the counter’ I loved ‘the here and now of them and her’.

‘She wandered four times around the small room like a dog torn between looking for a place to settle or shit.’ Great description.

‘But how can we be lost when we don’t know where we’re going?’ Yep, true. Clever observation.

‘It was a pathetic place where the strong and young did as they would and gave no heed to tomorrow. Or was that what had led them to this sorry state to begin with?’ Interesting reflections in this section (chapter undetermined 1).,social, philosophical, political even.

‘It may have been as if this thing reminded him of a time when people had things, possessions, wonderful technologies, magical possessions that had not been within his means. It was as though this thing reminded him of that time. The time when each had his place…and he knew. This was not his….’

Things that didn’t work quite so well for me:

‘Unlike so many nights—those constant hours when he wasn’t sure if something big scurried in the corner of the room or something small scurried down inside his ear—unlike them, just then, as James was slipping free of his feelings of ever-increasing failings—just when a fleeting and long-awaited rare moment of peace was unfurling its velvet blossom—that was when she appeared.’
I read this a couple of times and though there are some lovely elements here, the whole just didn’t seem to run right.

‘there swam creatures seldom—if not never—seen.’ For me this didn’t seem to read smoothly, something about the punctuation maybe?

‘In the thud of landfall and dark-room discovery, Sasha was too excited to give notice to the large swath of skin shaved off—that epidermis expedition of her drafted and taken away without ceremony. Flesh that was no longer Sasha, merely a colony of meat that would wither and dry and die quickly now that it had departed from the motherland. A shared oblivious abandon, she of that lost bit of herself and it of her. An almost unforgiveable ignorance of life.’
I struggled with this a bit. Almost as though it was too much.

I found another ‘. Almost.’ As in ‘..old woman was almost a pleasant discovery. Almost.’ and a couple more ‘husks’. Oh dear, and another . Almost. ‘It was almost a feeling of relief. Almost.’

In the section beginning ‘The trio of men you mention ‘the anomaly’ several times – it took me a while to realise that you were naming the ‘thing’ (for wont of a better word) ‘the anomaly’ and thought it was just repetition.

I’m not familiar with ‘taffy’ or ‘carny’ though I would have got taffy from the context – but then I’m not really familiar with the drug references either :-D and that didn’t get in the way of the reading at all.


So thank you, Eric, I very much enjoyed reading this and will look forward to reading the finished manuscript.

Good luck and best wishes
Ellie view book

written 177 days ago

A compelling book by a very clever writer, quirky and surreal in places but all the more enjoyable for that. What a strong and individual voice this author has and what an a-maze-ing mind, layer upon layer upon layer. Fascinating book, fascinating man. Not my usual kind of read but it’s good to break out sometimes and testament to the writer that I’m already nearly at chapter 20 and going strong. I really liked the main character, loved the Walter episode in Chapter 15, so visual, reminded me of Woody Allen or the Marks Brothers. Great writing from a well-read author who comes up with diverse and appropriate quotes for fifty odd chapters - I really liked the chapter sub-headings - and gems such as:

‘I was being, not just a fool, but a fool who despised himself for being a fool.’

‘On the seventh hour I rested.’

‘I repel your theft of my attention’

Well done, RH, I am pleased you snatched mine. view book

written 182 days ago

What can I say? I love this book. I love everything about it. When it is published I will buy a copy, which will become well-thumbed as I read it over and over. It will be well loved. I will recommend it, lend it to friends and when I’ve forgotten who I lent it to last I will buy another copy and that will be well-thumbed and well loved too.

I knew from the start I would like ‘body, remember’, its simple, striking lower case title, and then the pitch culminating in ‘A novel about what we remember and how we remember, what we love and how we love. . . the stories we tell ourselves and each other in order to survive the past’. Oh, the endless fascination of memory and what it does to us, how it shapes us. And then as if you’ve not hooked me completely, you start your prologue with an Eliot quote.

So, a few notes as I read through (the chapter numbers here are your chapters, not authonomy chapters).

Chapter 1

I really like the construction, your use of first person, the tense you use and the way Maggie talks to Mack.

‘We make linoleum cathedrals of hospital rooms’ I love this.

I seem to be using ‘love’ a great deal, but I love the repetition of ‘We have an idea of Goodbyes’

Other points:

If you don’t mind me saying, there is a sentence re: blood ‘Stop you up’. Although I know what you mean this didn’t flow quite as well as the rest of your writing for me. This could just be that I’m reading as a British reader, maybe it’s a common expression in Australia.

Other things I noted you refer (here and throughout) to ‘a wine’ not ‘a glass’ of wine’. Again an interesting difference in usage.

You have ‘lay’ and I think in context it should be ‘lie’.

Just things I noticed as I read.

Chapter 2

‘The slow stain of grief spreads throughout the office’ Wow.

‘And I wrapped up this description like a gift’ love it.

‘I am so good at this, the telling of certain truths. I know how to deliver separate beads of fact; I know how to make sure they can never be strung together. I learnt early on that a secret is merely a different kind of truth.’
What a clever way to describe this, and how very, very well observed.

‘No new white-flag smiles’ neat, nice.

Love the musings of the final four paragraphs, especially:

‘in that light up in a moment of reflection also fizz and spark when we foretell. Suspended
between these two states – by what has been and what just might be – our souvenirs become our guideposts.’

‘Perhaps I had some instinct for how this works, for how re-telling the past can ensure its survival. You answered once and said I remember every day. You told me that you remembered every day. It was the
single safest place we ever went, the lighthouse of that sentence. These words sheltered me for years. Long after we stopped emitting our glow.’

Chapter 3

Great observation, the unreasonable anger at Shelley but that’s just how it is, and the ‘elastic band’ as both reality and a symbol is brilliant.

‘I was not supposed to like this woman’ Good

‘But here is another truth. I fell in love with this woman. The way she emerged from within me, the path she led me down, it was an intoxication. It was a mad tumbling into wonderland. Snap, snap, snap. I was not supposed to like this woman at all.’
I love the searing honesty of this observation

I liked the ‘two boxes’ story

‘And I admire how she knows when the time is right to re-arrange her sadness.’ Lovely writing.

‘This is what is left of us.A glossy photograph wrapped in the half-torn page from a discarded book. Where we have been, and where we will never go. What we were, and what we will never be. A moment captured and another moment lost. So entwined I cannot separate the two.’ Oh, oh, oh!

Chapter 4

There is so much about your writing that I like, the feeling of it, the emotion, the brilliant observations, lovely, lovely phrasing. I particularly like the way you capture and portray the complex emotions of two people who find themselves on the brink of a relationship like this.

‘I was cultivating a broken heart and it wasn’t supposed to rearrange itself so quickly.’

‘What if you hadn’t left me to walk home alone. I think it would have been a drunken, unremarkable
fuck. You would have been fighting the vodka for sensation.’

‘Was resistance our biggest mistake in the end?’

‘hesitant reciprocation’

‘we had a secret to protect, and perhaps even more, a limit to be tested’

I love, love, love all those

The whole Susan episode was excruciating and very well written.
I loved
‘She began to polish the grooves out of her memories so only the shiny surfaces remained. . . And when only the longing remained, she took the memories out of her pocket and laid each one before the man, her gestures both hesitant and hopeful.’

Other points:
There is another errant ‘laying’ I think.

I had to look up ‘limerence’ (which I thought was a beautiful looking and sounding word).

Chapter 5

I very much liked the description of the dream.

Things seem to slot into place in this chapter, to develop.

‘The first time we make love. Is that what we called it? It wasn’t love, perhaps we said fucking. ‘Brilliant paragraph, so much said is so few words. Fabulous writing.

‘But then, you never did understand nuance. I would say your fascination with my jagged edges snared us both in the end.’

‘That is how easily we gave in. Starting a little dance of words, each sentence extending an invitation to the next - one offering accepted and then another until our fingers were tripping over the keys in our eagerness to propel this thing forward.’

I love your description of the two different characters and the contrast between them, and Mack’s inner conflict as he tries to resist Maggie which we understand better and which is thrown into even sharper contrast when we learn later in the chapter of his very strict religious upbringing (nicely expanded on from the RC funeral a few chapters earlier).

‘And that was it. The moment we decided. We knew where we were headed, because we knew where we had already been. The first night, we could claim surprise. But not this, not the conscious plan we made.’ I really like this, especially ‘We knew where we were headed, because we knew where we had already

I like the bit about the moral compass and how you follow through a couple of paragraphs later.

‘Your god tells you that we are born in sin, that we climb out of the darkness and head toward the light. I am inclined to think the opposite. That we are pristine and shiny when we meet this life, that the fall comes from living.’

(This is where I’m starting to realise the importance Mack’s religion plays and I have a brief thought back to the RC funeral.)

More of Lucy, again, I’m starting to become more aware of her. Neat how you draw her more into focus.

Fantastic description of Mack’s upbringing, uptight

‘Decency wrapped itself around your wild parts as love was metered out in ancient verse and trips to the
bathroom at your father’s office.

I can’t imagine how much you pushed right down when they told you lust was a shameful sin. How the cravings fizzing and floating in your little head went underground.’

‘I like to think that for a moment I helped you believe in your own instinct for passion and pleasure. That you understood life’s most basic truths when in my arms, because we derived from the same source. I like to think I eased your discomfort just a little. By loving all of your darkest parts.
Because it is as great a tragedy as any, don’t you think? The idea of someone else’s truth. The walls that we build between comfort and desire.’

Other points:
You have ‘through-out’ should this be ‘throughout’

Chapter 6
Evolves naturally, easily. Short, simple and neatly done.

Chapter 7
‘I have read that the source of the word ‘wife’ is veil. Here now I lift the fabric with trembling fingers.’
Poignant. Lovely.

.In your elaboration there is a knowing, an easy affection for this agreeable flaw. And it splinters my heart because love is in the detail isn’t it – in the ordinary, the commonplace. I don’t know what I expected from a revelation – but somehow I never, ever considered this. It never occurred to me that the ordinary was my true opposition.

Maggie’s reaction to Anna’s pregnancy is well observed and well written.

I love the simplicity of
‘You don’t deserve this altar’ and ‘I put the magazine carefully back on the shelf’.

Chapter 8
Liked the idea of Barbie dolls, love and (not) marriage.

Love the ‘what if’s culminating in :
‘What if I had helped you tick all of your boxes and we had drawn bigger one around the both of us and lived inside it quite perfectly, together.

Would this have made me easier to love? Would this have made you choose me? How much would I have had to lose to keep your love?’

‘I could crawl us back into our skins, dissolve back into these nights, I would. I would close my eyes
against your chest and listen to every single word you offered in the rise and fall against my cheek. The stories of how you were sinking and I saved you.’
Just one of the many observations that got to me.

‘You do not believe two people could sustain this every day. An intensity of skin to skin that does not leave room for god or neighbours, or for tricycles turned over in the yard. Obsession may prevail in moments, yes – but it does not leave any room for living.’
Excellent description of an intense questionably sustainable relationship.

Oooh, I do like ‘ a pas de deux in the midst of chaos’.

‘Because not all love is scheduled I say as you look at your watch

‘.And here the wall goes up. You were raised to follow a book and lists, when my parents were dancing
barefoot around the dishes. It is a view of the past that we can never seem to reconcile.’

‘When I first asked you what this was, you smiled and said a dalliance. You thought that I would like the word, the way you have to curl your tongue against your teeth to make the sound, the way you can slide right off the ending. You thought the word would please me, that its poetry would distract me from its meaning. This pretty, empty word that really means a waste of time. In your answer you casually defined me as a recreation, as the sport you play on Thursday nights. I was a lovely diversion from the importance of your every day life. You were content with this definition. It created a fissure in my heart, this reminder that I had been too light across your skin to leave the impression I desired. In your answer you thought only of how this affair broke you out of your life. Never once of how you smashed right into mine.’
I can just imagine it.

Liked the description of the anger and the positivity it engendered.

Liked . ‘I spent years riding my freedom with the curb of this bit’

And ‘It left me blinking in the light and quietly sure that I wanted nothing less than this from men. With that quiet sureness I waited. Any time a skinny boy with grass on his knees came near I pushed him away.

Followed by
‘this boy on the cusp with the grass scrubbed clean from his knees.’

And again later
‘and this time I welcomed the grass on his knees’

The almost famous actor paragraph made me smile.

‘But back in the city our fucks began to feel urban. Until one day Africa had receded so far he handed
her back with my spare key.’
Loved this

‘Even when the map disintegrates, even when the landscape changes, we keep on trying to make our claim. We built this world of ours so quickly, Mack. Why did we never give any thought to how it might be
Another beautifully written and true observation.

Other points:
Should reveled have two lls (revelled) or is this down to usage again?

Chapter 9
I particularly liked:
‘a kinetic and violent man’ and ‘the control implicit in the form’

Meticulous observation of the searching for a reason ,and this:

Lucy is in therapy. She speaks like a person who has been recently taught methods of survival. Earnest questions that answer themselves, and a hesitant touching on the multitude of choices that lead us to our present state. She is trying on accountability, but is sits so closely up against guilt that the notion feels dangerous to explore. For both of us’
Very good.

Like ‘she has been abbreviated in the press’

Now we have Anna being introduced as a person in her own right rather than as seen through the eyes of others.

‘I hold this letter in my hand and concentrate on quelling the slight shake the paper betrays. Anna’s
complete ownership of you, the sorrow framed as faith, it is a fresh way to lose you. She has a dignity to her grief that I cannot come close to. And I am selfish enough to resent her for it. My grief is greedy, boundless, undirected. It lashes out, full of silent screams. But she maintains a quiet calm in the face of eternity. In her belief she has you, fully.’

‘Those places of worship and exaltation, covered in cigarette burns and red velvet, and so much better in the dark.’
Very good. It’s clever the way you keep alluding subtly to the religious aspect.

Just for a moment, before we were again placed high on a shelf. Apart.
Love the simplicity of ‘Apart’

Chapter 10

Very good opening paragraph.

‘I am on intimate terms with regret today, and the way it sidles up to guilt.’
Love that

Love the paragraph beginning ‘The guilt was merely another dish at the table,

‘The little strikes, the times remorse settled in for a night and kept us awake in separate houses, well we simply careened off and boomeranged back a thousand times on those sleepless nights and good intentions. Never considering how right for the wrong reason will rarely sustain.’
Love this too

‘So I continued to direct the play and kept feeding the lines to us both.’
Very nice

Other points:
You have ‘is sat’. I think it should be ‘is sitting’ or ‘is seated’ although I have read recently that times are moving on and as ‘is sat’ is now so commonly used it is edging its way in.

‘But Mack, you had you proved yourself capable of both inspired action and a trailing regret.’
Nice sentence but it doesn’t read quite right. Is there a typo or something missing ‘you had you proved’ ?

‘Perhaps guild could only triumph when I had you completely?’
Should that be ‘guilt’?

‘So you have to cause explosions, you have to light a match or you may very well disappear, and one will notice a thing.’
‘No one’ will notice?

Chapter 11

‘This idea of compatibility ignores the multitudes – the glimmers and sparks of our contradictions.’
Love this

‘It is different remembering now that you are gone. I am not even sure the memories are the same.’
Yep, that’s true!

‘You, so defined by absence, are always present in this.’
Love this section

Chapter 12

‘She tells me this quietly, a question implicit in the reveal.’
Lovely, sentence, great simplicity

‘Lucy watches me, and then she says that the rest is a blur. That the counselor has said it is quite normal for a victim to wipe out the specifics of a trauma like this. She says this without taking her eyes off me, and the
disappointment I feel is so fresh, so painful that I want to cry. She was supposed to give you back to me, Mack. She is the only one who could do it. In the silence that follows I make no effort to stop the tears that spill out and roll down my cheeks.’

Lucy leans over and puts her lips against my cheek, kisses softly at my tears. The touch is so intimate, so tender that everything breaks apart. A howl deep from within finds its way through the cracks and I am animal in my pain as it all comes rushing out. She keeps her lips against my cheek and rocks me slowly as I sob. She says over and over I know, Maggie, I know.

And when the tidal flow of grief finally subsides, I do not ask her what she means’
I very much like this section and the developing relationship between Maggie and Lucy, the interdependency.

Interesting sequence about the doctor and his wife – even more interesting is the reaction of his religious parents.

Nice final paragraph to that section.

I liked the penultimate section, especially :
‘it snaked out from pressed lips,’

Surprising final section, causes an almost involuntary shock.

I love
‘Some tragedies merely deepen with time. ‘

Other points:
Counselor. Two ‘ll’s Counsellor? Or is this, again just different spelling in Britain and Australia.

Chapter 13
Love the first paragraph. And as I read on, no, change that, I love the first four paragraphs.

Whoo, this is a particularly great chapter,

‘I have drowned the question in vodka, in tears. I have swum up through the anger and the sadness, and counted the longest nights on fingers and stars. I have avoided other arms and wrapped my own about me.’

‘It is amazing what a year can bring. This revolution I have danced around the sun, and survived.’

Fabulous writing.

‘It wasn’t supposed to end like that. Love is not supposed to go so quietly.’

‘I have followed the trail of breadcrumbs back to this night a hundred times.’

Clever use of religious symbolism for first night together, culminating in

‘One does not need god to be devout’

I love ‘Thrum of expectation’ and ‘Decorate our promises with beads and silk’

The ‘Ben’ and the ‘Mack’ emphasise the different aspects of the same man. Neat

Chapter 14

So, now we have Anna (gently introduced to us and now taking centre stage). Interesting change in focus and oh, what a surprise in content. Well done.

Very much liked the mirror analogy.

You had the mistress perfectly and now you equally define the wife and marriage.

‘We’ve forgotten what we’re in for. And I love the we of this, the we that make us a team again. I fall asleep thinking that I am as happy as I’ve ever been. And when I close my eyes I know that I am lucky. It is an assurance I am not to know again.’
I like that

‘How many nights? How many nights does it take to really know someone? One hundred? A thousand? Laying next to each other in the dark, in the sticky opposite sides of the bed of summer, and the curving toes under calves of winter. How many of these would be enough to see everything you need, for the complete picture to reveal itself? I used to fall asleep so quickly in your arms, Ben. What was that? Security, a return to the safety of bodies pressed? Or the indulgence of marriage, the way a laziness creeps into a comfortable bed? So that after a time you no longer find yourself awake and inviting in the middle of the night. You no longer try to make the other laugh as you whisper stories at 3am. You no longer need the night to prove you are the other half of a most special pair.

Where once you would willingly trade the scratchy eyes and fuzzy head of sleepless nights for just one more
story, one more touch, now you go to bed at different times, you think of the turning clock and the morning swim, and you are sound asleep or trying by the time that other body lays down beside you. Maybe there is a sliding hand or a quiet kiss to the shoulder, but you keep your back turned just the same. With that gold soldered to your finger, you can sleep the sleep of the dead.’

I loved that. Oh, so true.

‘And then you, Ben. My sister’s friend’s friend, one of those meetings where we discovered we had circled each other since birth. Like a game of snap we both kept winning, we would lay done one piece of history then another, and find it the same.’

Liked this very much but ‘down’ instead of ‘done’.

‘You, silent and grateful, careful not to make a mess.’
Made me smile

‘And me, played lightly, like a wave that rises and falls but never quite breaks. This was the feeling I always had laying beneath you.’
Loved this and the following paragraph.

Very much liked Anna’s reaction.

‘The art of compartmentalisation as a survival tool.’
Yes. Indeed .Oh yes

And this
‘I would have to say I learnt that from you, Ben. A way to box everything up, and to keep the lid firmly shut on the messier parts. So that you only ever take out what is needed, and when.’

Interesting final sentence

Other points:
‘by the time that other body lays down beside you.’ Lies down beside you.?

‘we would lay done one piece of history then another’ We would lay down rather than lay done?

This was the feeling I always had laying beneath you.’ Lying beneath you?

Chapter 15

Seared in collective memory, the number gives me pause and then I hit the little handset sign.
Loved ‘seared in collective memory’

‘There is a type of cry reserved for the dead. Devoid of hope, this lament exists outside of space and time.’
Fantastic section.

‘I want to know the facts. I will come to crave the facts.’
I like that.

‘I will wrap my arms around your mother, I will let her cry into my shoulder so that she cannot
see how hard I am biting down on my own sorrow. I will sleep next to Ollie every night, I will keep the bathroom light on, and his favourite pillow between us, and he can think I don’t know how he cries himself to sleep. I will be the one they can ask, when they’re ready. What happened? I will have all the answers waiting. I have to know what happened to us, Ben.’

‘We are people whose veins show through skin, whose words are formed over hushed tones, people who eat around our dinners and lay in bed without crumpling the sheets.’

‘Keegan tells me survivors always imagine the worst, that there are darker places in our minds than we could ever have imagined before. That it is important to get the facts and to face them head on, even if we can only do this in small parts. Even if it takes us a year or ten, he says, the facts will do more to stop the nightmares than anything else, more than any therapy ever could. I’m here to give you the facts he says, and I offer my only sincere Thank you since you died.’

Other points:
I think numbers under ten are usually written in full.

‘and lay in bed without crumpling the sheets’ Lie in bed?

Chapter 16

First paragraph, yes, that’s just what people say.

‘And you must remember the good times. The urging of it, the suggestion that we can clean and polish our memory at will.’

People expect you to cry at a funeral, but really neither of us had anything left. Others came, fresh with
sadness, blooming with it. Borrowed grief has its own kind of glow, it emanated from the crowded pews. You were loved, Ben. This much is clear from the earnest sadness that permeates this day.’
I loved this especially ‘Borrowed grief has its own kind of glow,’ and ‘earnest sadness’

Religious aspect of the Anna chapters is interesting again.

* * * * * *

I knew from the start I was going to like ‘body, remember’ it was just a question of how much, and standing on tiptoe with arms stretched as wide as they will go I say “This much”. Just the kind of book I love to read, beautifully written, some exquisite phrasing, great observation of people and life in general, plus depth of character all cleverly interwoven, gathered up around one man. Also amongst the best presented and edited that I've read here.

I loved it and wish you all the best with it. Very, very well done.
view book

written 313 days ago

A fabulous title and compelling pitch. Blood on the Banana Leaf is just as you say, haunting and lyrical with four distinct and distinctive voices, from the heart rending and poignant to the tense and brittle, all very well and individually sustained – they stand alone but with interwoven, connecting themes. Such atmospheric and evocative writing, perceptive with some quite wonderful expressions and phrases but also firmly grounded revealing a telling and often shocking insight into different cultures and ways of thinking.

Amongst the things I especially liked:

CH 1
‘It is everything.

And it is nothing.

Ashes in mouth nothing.

Sour Yam nothing.

Child cries nothing.’

‘There is a torpor in this city of steel and glass. It wrings me out and leaves me gasping. I am old here. I feel old and desiccated’

‘She makes a sound like an irritated thrush’

‘My life is no life.’

‘It seems that the darkness is in their souls and their hearts, not mine. Please, Jesus. Help me.’

‘Then they are mesmerized by whatever dark magic is weaved between their legs and they think they are Bojiing and the Peacock Emperor.’

‘But Asians mirrors tell Western Men lies. They think because they have a pretty girlfriend they have suddenly become good looking overnight. They haven’t. They aren’t. They are still ugly and fat. I don’t mean to sound harsh or bitter. But I am’

I love the whole of the sequence where Leslie meets Ralph. One massive sigh of appreciation for your writing here.

‘She will glitter with nerves and bark instructions, tapping out a rhythm of hysteria and angst with those overlong fingernails that can do so much harm.’

‘a chill settled at the bottom of my spine and squatted there’

I really enjoyed reading this and learning about the lives of your women, getting to know them. A few typos here and there but nothing to distract from the story. Soulful writing and well done for the way you maintain each individual voice. Neat sting in the tail too. Neat sting in your tale.

All the best with this.
Ellie view book

written 354 days ago

Chapter 13

This chapter is you at your best. I thought it was superb. I don’t even know if I can explain why other than there’s a subtlety of feeling here, undercurrents, realisations, recognitions and momentum of plot conveyed with skill and beauty. Fabulous, just fabulous. view book

written 363 days ago

Chapter 12

Things I loved:

‘The crisis with the shops had been resolved but the difference of opinion it had generated between Marion and Pete had not and it hung in the hot, greasy air between them. Too exhausted by the symptom to debate its cause, they fell back instead on the comfort of repetition – daily routines performed without words, without argument, without even conscious thought – the unspoken issue of Chrissy filling any remaining pockets of air; the atmosphere behind the counter compressing in slow suffocation.’

Very well expressed. Especially ‘too exhausted by the symptom to debate its cause, they fell back instead on the comfort of repetition – daily routines performed without words, without argument, without even conscious thought’. Yep. That’s how life can be sometimes, that’s how it is, what helps people get through.

‘The air was too thick, the unspoken too belligerent’ I liked this. Something about ‘the unspoken too belligerent’

‘there are no pockets in a shroud’ I haven’t heard this expression before. It made me smile.

‘All well and good saving for the future, but a person needed to know where that future started.’

‘Somewhere in the midst of such practicalities dreams are lost.’ Indeed they are.

‘Stature mimicking success, growing fat, growing comfortable, growing, growing, growing.’

‘Any fool can fall in love, it’s perseverance that counts. ‘ Wry smile.

‘But the reality of marriage, the subconscious learning to live with unimagined normality – it’s a progressive condition. There is no fixed reference point, no norm, just a constantly shifting baseline for good and bad.’ Neat observation (you make me smile comparing it to chronic arthritis!)

You describe Marion’s frustration with Pete, with her life very well, slowly building up and spilling over. The connection with Chrissy too. The cause of her dad’s death also killed her dreams.

‘And nobody remembers how to care beyond the needs of their personal cocoon. Once dampened, community spirit is difficult to rekindle.’

‘Then Chrissy returned.

Something changed.

And now it was fighting relentlessly with all Marion held true. She still believed in the community. Still believed their efforts had been worthwhile. She did believe that. She could still look back and see good deeds, smiles, friendships and kindnesses and know that she had, in some small way, made the lives of others brighter. But that foolish teenage dream was no longer opaque and obtuse. It was sharp and vivid again and it jostled with the conviction – taunting, resisting compression – what if, what if, what if.’

You really do build up very nicely to this. So many of us ‘settle for’, subsume ourselves, and for ever wonder what might have been.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but I like the knack you have of ascribing thoughts and opinions to your characters and presenting them as statements when you are writing about them. Their Truths.

Things I wondered about:

Had to look up ‘eremitic’ though it wouldn’t have mattered if I hadn’t; the context gives the gist.
view book

written 365 days ago

Chapter 11

Things I loved:

I don’t know if you do it on purpose but I loved your opening paragraph again and am beginning to appreciate the peeling away of wallpaper and the peeling away of years analogy.

‘These were the snapshots that didn’t make the album but were never thrown away.’ This and the whole of the paragraph.

‘The longer I stayed, the more I would be consumed.’ Yep.

‘Lovers do that. Absorb you – ink into blotting paper – until you no longer exist in any external context.’ It makes me ache inside to read this. It’s so, so true. (OK, so maybe I am sentimental).

‘Drawing and seeping two lives into one. Beginnings can look so very beautiful.’ Christ, the seeping got to me here. Someone once wrote something to me/for me about ‘seeping’.

‘But it’s a human compulsion to pick things apart. To look around every corner, into every crevice, examine and question, discover its core. Become resentful of independence, frustrated by mismatched edges, critical of imperfections. Put it back together in a better way, as part of a bigger whole, with edges matching. A two-piece jigsaw, its beauty absorbed and contained. Tighter. Tighter.

Grow bored.

Disappointed something so special could become so mundane.’

Fuck me. Two, maybe three glasses of red in and ain’t this the Truth. Again, picking at the edges of wallpaper and picking at the edges of relationships.

‘Here, still, because if I left, what would happen to Alice?’
Her justification. Her excuse to herself for staying.

‘kicking through the debris like a kid in an autumn wood.’ Yes.

“Are you staying?”

“People want plain rooms.”
Won’t commit. Avoiding the question.

‘Like a cobra, he was luring his prey; drawing me into foolish advance, soothing all logic with captivating eyes and a steady sway.’ Hhmmm. Lovely. ( No doubt our very own recently qualified Miss Brodie, always was quick to point out phallic symbols, would have seen one here).

Liked the flashback, but more later.

Loved the description of the school. Just how they were (or some of them). Delicate brush strokes but so much conveyed.

Things I wondered about:

God (exasperation with myself). I didn’t know what ‘sospirando’ meant (first paragraph) and had to look it up. Again, not in the online dictionary I chose, but again found it in a musical dictionary. Beginning to realise my musical knowledge is lacking. Then think ‘ah, soupir- sigh’ yes.

(As an aside I had a French pen friend who was quite an advanced – or so it seemed to me at thirteen -piano player. I loved something she played by Beethoven called, I thought because I’d read it on her sheet music, ‘Adagio Sostenuto’. My mother searched high and low for it ‘ Do you have Adagio Sostenuto by Beethoven?’ and eventually found that it was the beginning of his Moonlight Sonata. Still love it to this day. Pathetique and Apassionata were on the same LP, love those too)

I didn’t think I knew what ‘Parian marble’ was so googled it. Turns out I do. I know about Parian ware and Belleek pottery (except I thought it was ‘belique’).

I liked the slowness of the short Fen paragraph, loved the repetition of ‘when I remembered’ but wasn’t sure about
‘When I remembered mine and Pat’s poems.’ It might just be me being pedantic.

I enjoyed the description of the school, so real and deftly portrayed, but had to look up ‘Antaean’ and, bloody hell, ‘Cocytian’. Help! Starting to feel that I’ve been complacent, that my vocabulary is lacking. Fantastic paragraph though.
view book

written 368 days ago

Chapter 10

Things I loved:
Great opening to this chapter. I love the single lines:

‘Home. To me it had been so many things.’

‘I was tired. I’d come full circle.’
Everything about it. Especially:

,shared lodgings plucked from an evening paper,
‘the warmth of strangers’ beds. Freedom.’
‘But home had never been more than a moment in time. A brief stay, a long stay, a stranger’s spare room, a friend’s sofa, a lover’s bed’

In that first paragraph, in a few spare words, you encapsulate her life.

‘– faded echoes of a life once led, a purpose once in evidence’. Lovely.

‘The place screamed mundane at a level even the two radios and their staggered output could not drown.’

‘I was drawn to them. I was one of them. I’d always managed better than this.
But had I escaped? I was here after all.’

Seems a funny thing to say but reading your book has made me realise how important spaces are. How effective they can be. Something I hadn’t really thought of before. I like your single lines set slightly apart from the rest.

I like the way your flashbacks are unravelling and their pull on the story but you’ve asked for separate feedback on them so I’m saving that till later.

‘Spencer and Pat were always destined to be brief, glorious flourishes of colour on life’s canvas. Too much time would have diluted them. They were flashes. Sparks. Fireworks. Intended to be unique memories.
Pat probably did jump off the lifeboat house – it was the sort of mad thing she’d do. Spencer’s nihilistic bent would certainly have seen him off years ago.’
Like this.

Touching to read:
‘I liked to imagine I’d still be around, albeit one of the walking wounded, with perhaps a limb missing or a slightly weakened immune system – some sign I’d not been as interesting as I’d thought.’


‘The only fly in the ointment had been me – failing to make an impact, failing to know which side I was on.

Sloppy Christine, do it again’

Not so tough then. Christine pretending to be Chrissy.

‘There was no anything to be had. He was fluent and persistent when speaking of this illusion, and Pat believed what she believed with fervour. To be stuck between the two was to be confined in the tightest ‘of spaces. It was bound to end badly – we were all far too sharp around the edges.’

– we are nothing in the end. Gone. No more than a good idea, a fleeting muse.’

‘words that will never be fully understood. It’s all debris in the end.’

‘But I’d kept moving. I’d realised quite quickly it was the only way. To keep on finding the unexplored, the potential. To keep on walking. When each landscape looks different, you can believe you’re somewhere new. Time to move on when you realise you are actually nowhere new at all. That each turn, each fresh length of road is merely what has gone before in a different disguise. Every step on a new adventure is a repetition of someone else’s dream, someone else’s anticipation, someone else’s disappointment. And behind you are more itchy feet waiting to echo the tapping steps of your own.’
Bloody hell. You’ve gone all philosophical on me again. Love it!

Really liked the description of the nurses and their progress down the ward ‘fresh of face and lithe of body,’ ‘Nor did they seem aware that not all they touched was inanimate.’ Particularly stand out.

‘Death slinks into view with enough time for regret, too little to atone,’ Very good.

‘Take Alice. Take every Alice.’ Again, a lot said in a little.

It’s interesting to see her becoming more involved with Alice, starting to care despite herself. (And then a little later feeling she’s becoming too involved and needing to distance herself again).

“You’ll never be ready, sweetheart. Never.”

I love the paragraph beginning ‘I’d always known what I didn’t want’
Very good. Really. Very good.

I like ‘our many selves’ so true.

‘Or whether we could be content to be the briefest of touches where two lives meet; neither ever knowing the other’s whole, neither holding the complete album of the other’s life.’

‘barren frivolity’ good. Great juxtaposition.

‘captivate, copulate, replicate and die.’ Very good. I like this a lot. Sounds brilliant if you say it aloud. Fantastic beat to it.

‘The complexities with which we pass the time, justify our presence, convince ourselves we’re different, are a fallacy.’ Again, I really enjoy your observations on life.

Things I wondered about:

In the first paragraph you have ‘bed’ twice. I love them both, just noted it is all. ‘the warmth of strangers’ beds’ and ‘a lover’s bed’ I don’t know I would want to change either ‘the warmth of strangers’ beds’ says so much about her.

I noticed three ‘mundane’s quite close, either side and during the Spencer flashback. (I only noticed them
because I liked the first one so much).

‘Ritualistic procedure’ wasn’t sure about this but think it’s just me.

‘A game. We are all just part of a cosmic game. At the mercy of vengeful, petulant gods warring with human life, tit for tat. A relentless game of human chess. Is it any wonder we grab what we can?’
I really liked this but just wondered about ‘human chess’. It’s a nice analogy but quite often used.

You repeat ‘detritus’ quite closely either side of the ‘sloppy Christine’ line, on first reading just a fleeting, querying thought, wonder briefly (“maybe ‘debris’ for one of them”), then a bit further along you use ‘debris’ and I realise why. You repeat that too (twice), and it’s needed, done for emphasis. It works. My first thought was wrong. (I don’t know that this has got us anywhere, it’s just what I thought as I read!)

I’m getting absorbed by this now. Thinking about different aspects in my spare moments. I forgot to say earlier, ‘In My Life’ must be one of my favourite Beatles' songs. Haunting and beautiful.

Great chapter title too. view book

written 372 days ago

Chapter 6

Things I loved:

I liked the conversation between Malcolm and Roger. It seemed very natural.

You get an excellent picture of Malcolm/Fen with ‘Malcolm Fenchurch had never known chaos’ with the implication that he soon will!

‘Sometimes, when the odour of those years could be vaguely detected seeping from walls warmed by hot sun, it would remind him of his own choices, his own limitations, his own small place in this world. He didn’t welcome this sort of morose self-indulgence, though he’d been aware of the odour more often of late’

Really liked this, especially , ‘though he’d been aware of the odour more often of late’ –again, much conveyed in just a few words.

‘Almost every memory the old boy once possessed had been stolen from him by Alzheimer’s. Strangely enough, he could always remember Malcolm’s name though he could never define their relationship. In a way, it had always been like that.’
Clever, and I very much liked the almost throw-away ‘In a way, it had always been like that.’

‘….was just the same as life elsewhere. That eventually a person realised this. That eventually a person saw how every situation could be broken into just two states: anticipation and disappointment. Then she laughed, less effusively, and asked him to refill her glass’
Lovely. I like the use of ‘a person’ here. Something sad about the ‘laughed, less effusively’. I also like the ‘just two states: anticipation and disappointment’ but as I mentioned before you say something similar in Chapter 1.

Chrissy raised her sunglasses, looked at Fenchurch.“Let’s take this and go,” she said. “Finish it on the beach.” “We can’t take the glasses.” She arched her brows, challenging, teasing. “Yes we can.”

Doesn’t this just sum up the difference between them, emphasised a little later by:

‘He planned to take glasses back to the pub tomorrow, and knew he would. He was also sure she wouldn’t have bothered.’

I thought the whole of the getting drunk together was well described and realistic.

‘She turned, smiled, trailed a cool hand along his arm. “Strange sort of lawyer who takes the word of a client as truth,” she said. “Wouldn’t you rather check the evidence personally?”
Like it! Neatly done and a good ending to the chapter. (On a slightly flippant note, I do wonder after all that booze quite how it turned out. Or maybe I’ve just been unlucky!)

Things I wondered about:

Heavy duty tires – Heavy duty tyres?

‘It was an old fashioned pub, popular with the less upmarket holidaymakers whose taste in cuisine stretched no further than steak and ale pie with chips and high calorific puddings drowning in custard. It was certainly a suitable venue for a clandestine meeting if avoiding being seen was the order of the day.’

I thought this described the kind of pub it was very well but when I first read it queried in my mind ‘order of the day’ as perhaps being a bit clichéd. Then I thought maybe it was very clever, ‘order of the day’ in relation to the kind of menu on offer. I’m still unsure about it but, if I had to come down either way, would go with my first instinct. (If indeed, this being a writers’ site you can have a ‘first’ instinct.)

I wondered if ‘now dead some five years’ was important to know, similarly do you need ‘anticipating a negative response’ ? (you already have ‘queried the possibility’ rather than ‘ordered’ which (I think) implies the same thing.

Chapter 7

Things I loved:

‘I could barely take my eyes off Alice’s boots. They belied the fragility of her body, as though grim determination alone might be capable of halting the decay. Solid and thick, with treads that wouldn’t be out of place on a truck, holding up her wasted frame, their ferocity tempered by a tender roll of wool against brittle ankles.’

Love this especially ‘They belied the fragility of her body, as though grim determination alone might be capable of halting the decay.’ and ‘their ferocity tempered by a tender roll of wool against brittle ankles.’

‘Obviously far too big. Obviously not intended for a woman, even before the wasting.’
I like this, the repetition of ‘obviously’ works nicely.

‘Maybe in the intervening years there’d been a husband.

Or a lover.

Or both.’
I like this too, very effective the way you set it out with the little thought-gaps.

‘.. find in her movement any trace of the glorious flesh she used to carry. There was now so little of her left, she’d probably vanish before Death could grasp her.’

You really ‘do’ Chrissy very well, her edginess and spikiness. (I sometimes find my self smirking at something she says/thinks, at the same time thinking ‘I really shouldn’t be smiling at this’)

‘utter embracing of purpose’
Very nice

‘She insisted the box go in the bag too. Wedged to one side by the foil-wrapped parcels, balanced at the other by the weight of the grey flask. Death and sustenance sharing space’

I liked this, ‘Death and sustenance sharing space’.

‘I felt good. Fenchurch had proved a timely antidote’. Yes. A lot expressed in a little.

I though it was interesting her father improved when she left. (Or was he slowly improving anyway? Is that just my perception?)

‘It’s a shame you never called or wrote,’
So very true. That’s just the kind of thing people say to pile on the guilt.

I thought the abortive phone call was well described, real and I liked’ For that brief moment, I’d thought it mattered’. (You repeat ‘mattered’ in the next paragraph, is that done intentionally for emphasis?)

‘For her generation, not having married is the sort of anomaly that warrants an explanation.’ Another neat observation. (But see later in my wonderings, do you contradict this a bit later in the chapter and is it done on purpose?).

‘– whilst the mother hung back, clinging onto smug detachment for as long as she could.’ Hahah. Yep! Can just picture the scene.

I really liked the paragraph beginning ‘Alice struggles with her memory’

‘so I sing along with the rest. I love, I lose and I carry on,’
I love this. The sort of resigned sentiment a person can identify with.

‘ Spencer knew all there was to know about the final truth and had kindly imparted his wisdom to the rest of us, which isn’t something you ever forget.’
Love the irony of ‘kindly’

“Tell me,” he said, “what you think you see?” He waved a hand, arcing it over the landscape of beach and people.
“I see families, enjoying the beach, the weather, swimming. Kids playing in the sand. The usual seaside stuff.”
He laughed. Short, sneering, disappointed. “What I see and what you also see were you to properly look, is the mindless repetition of a species too stupid to see their own futility.”

I’ve known Spencers in my time and at that age you hang on to their every utterance as being the ultimate Truth. You are infatuated by them, shelter behind their certainty of Life, fall in love with them sometimes, quote them to others because you know their thoughts are Truths and can’t understand why others can’t see this too. Later you become more discerning. Well drawn, Sandie.

I never looked at people the same again’ I like the simplicity and resignation in this.

‘She said she was rested, we could carry on. She said the view further along was breathtaking. She sounded like an advertisement. She looks across that void and only counts colours, shapes, the lack of concrete. She doesn’t hear the ancient screams lingering in the wind, doesn’t feel the water’s icy shock, the vile suck as life is dragged down into darkness. The water is not blue. The sky is not blue. I’m not even sure the hills are green.’

Another paragraph I really liked. It also seems an important paragraph. I think it could stand out more, have more impact; it just seems to get a little lost where it is.

‘I wonder whether she ever once questioned her vision of self-contained happiness in the colder months, when that little girl was poking at the ground in the rain. But I suppose she never looked over the fence in winter.’

I really liked the tempo of this, the poignancy of ‘But I suppose she never looked over the fence in winter’.

Things I wondered about:

Two ‘development’ things got me wondering. What changed Chrissy’s mind about where to scatter the ashes (I thought she wanted to scatter them in the garden) and what happened to soften Chrissy’s attitude towards Alice? Is it that she can now see some of the ‘old Alice’, has her connection with Fenwick forged a deeper connection with the place and the present?
It could well be something I’ve missed whilst reading rather than lack of clarity on your part.

Another wonder: I wondered if you’d re-written/added this paragraph at some stage. I struggled with it a bit though there a parts of it I really like.

‘We sat on the wooden bench. Alice sipped her tea contentedly, pointed to wild flowers and grasses, commented on the clarity of the sky. I wondered why the nicest people never have children, why it only seems to be the ungrateful ones who do. I wanted to know why she didn’t find another young man, why she chose to spend more than sixty years alone, but I didn’t ask. Some anomalies don’t really need explanation. We’d come back to the song, to Love. There must be more dirges about it than all other topics combined. Its loss, its gain, its duplicitous nature, the longing, the loathing, the expectation, the futility. It’s an international obsession. Songs do their best, but they all have the same starting point – an assumption of Love as Truth. People think they’ve got it covered, there isn’t a lyric unwritten, but it all hangs on that acceptance of Love’s existence, its form. Without that not one of it makes sense. Where are the songs about Love’s fallacy? It’s less aesthetic biological drive?’

Before the flashback about the 105 steps you say ‘We continued the ascent. There was a wooden bench at the top of the steps – a thoughtful later addition for a weaker generation of climbers – and we sat for a while.’

Then straight after the flashback we have:

‘Shall we have a cup of tea?” I said to Alice. “Rest up for a minute?”
“That would be lovely, dear” .We sat on the wooden bench. Alice sipped her tea contentedly’
Weren’t they already sitting on the bench?

In the paragraph I quoted above you say ‘We’d come back to the song,’ Is this figurative?

You also say ‘Some anomalies don’t really need explanation’. Yet earlier in the chapter we have
‘For her generation, not having married is the sort of anomaly that warrants an explanation’ Is this a deliberate contradiction? A subtlety I’ve missed. (A later musing: (see how these things linger!) if it is a deliberate contradiction, then ‘No, some anomalies don’t really need explanation’ would have made that clearer to me, I think.)

Not sure about ‘It’s an international obsession’ though I know exactly what you’re saying.

‘Without that not one of it makes sense.’ Should this be ‘Without that none of it makes sense’

‘It’s less aesthetic biological drive?’ Again, I didn’t quite get this and found myself re-reading.

Though from the same paragraph I did love ‘the longing, the loathing, the expectation, the futility.’
and really liked ‘People think they’ve got it covered, there isn’t a lyric unwritten, but it all hangs on that acceptance of Love’s existence, its form.’
Sorry if I’m being obtuse with this paragraph. It’s more likely me reading it wrong.

You use ‘Fallacy’ twice close together.

Further thoughts on Chapter 7.
This has been tumbling around at the back of my mind for a couple of days now. I think what I am saying is that:

‘She said she was rested, we could carry on. She said the view further along was breathtaking. She sounded like an advertisement. She looks across that void and only counts colours, shapes, the lack of concrete. She doesn’t hear the ancient screams lingering in the wind, doesn’t feel the water’s icy shock, the vile suck as life is dragged down into darkness. The water is not blue. The sky is not blue. I’m not even sure the hills are green.’

is a really strong paragraph (your title too) and for me it would work even better if the climb to the cliff top, Alice’s back story and Chrissy’s thoughts during that section were condensed a little more. I offer this hesitantly.

Chapter 8

Things I loved:

‘The wind stole away her muttering as I hung back and checked my phone.’
I really liked ‘The wind stole away her muttering’ and later in the paragraph:

‘He signed off with an F and a kiss. I laughed. I’d called him Fen last night at the pub – told him Malcolm wasn’t a great name – but hadn’t called him anything later, in his bed, with Battle of Evermore filling my senses, his weight subduing the urge to soar, his penetration anchoring me to earth. A lover’s name, like the prostitute’s kiss is not something to be expended lightly’

It made me think. We do that, don’t we, change the names of our lovers and sometimes ourselves. Frees us sometimes when otherwise we might not make so free.

I wasn’t familiar with ‘The Battle of Evermore’ but had to smile when I googled and listened to it on Youtube. I bought ‘Raising Sand’ when that came out a few years ago– played it all that summer, often loud and often cavorting round the kitchen after a few glasses. Target reader?!

I love ‘fuck away the past’

‘I am no longer sure which of us was the most damaged. I’d always assumed it was him. That he was the failure, he was the man without a life – all messy past and no future – and I was the one who had broken free.’
Nice reflection.

You really do have relationships nailed. I’m reading the Chrissy and Pat, child and teenager section now, but
also Marion and Pete, Chrissy’s mum and dad…

‘I realised then.’ Simple but effective.
‘So I ask Alice now – at the grand old age of fifty – whether I’d been an accident. It was mildly pathetic to hear myself but I need to know.’ Adds another dimension

The scattering scene. Chrissy’s irreverence and concern with the practicalities, messiness contrasted with Alice’s quiet dignity.

‘ “What did she ever do wrong?” Alice said. “Yes, I know he wasn’t easy, I know that, but what did she do?” She was trying to hold herself still, trying to hang onto that measured tone, but there was venom within.’

Alice might have thought the view justified a double-page spread in the tourist brochures, but I didn’t. It’s a desolate hell-hole frequented by nutters and poor sods who can’t walk their dogs on the beaches in summer.’ She’s caustic and cynical but she makes me smile. I think it is the irreverence.

Liked the exchange between Chrissy and Alice re: selfishness

Things I wondered about:

A point I’d not thought of. ‘Red Indian – Native American’. Difficult for you. As a reader (not a writer) it’s something you tend not to think about but I guess you have to qualify so as not to risk causing offence.

Ah. ‘Judy’s dog’. So it is important we remember that particular dog. That’s why you introduce ‘Judy’ so we remember the dog. Would we remember it as well if it was defined by a particular characteristic rather than its owner? Does she appear again?

‘Aged wood, carved in capitals, jutting out with the sort of importance that suggested it was a major throughput’. I liked this but wondered if ‘throughput’ should be ‘thoroughfare’

Chapter 9

Things I loved:

Back with Mervyn, I really liked the change of pace, location and characters.

‘But Danny always motors, which is why he’s gone so far in the business and which, with a face like his, has got to be the right policy.’
Made me smile

‘It was the one deadline he feared.’ Striking

‘She and Danny have been with him forever. The others come and go. The others need managing. Constantly.’
Liked the brevity of the sentences.

Mug with the (MC) pig and the way it faces, a nice touch.

‘The dead sister he’d never got to know’
Has Chrissy told him Pat was her sister? Got me thinking.

The whole of the section about his feelings for Chrissy, the complexity, and the development of their relationship is very well done.

‘The lifestyle had sucked her in. He should never have done it; should have known. He’d saved her from one fate only to consign her to its glamorous twin. A person doesn’t walk away from that.’
I really liked this. (I do like the way you use ‘a person’, I know I’ve said it before, but I do).

‘Marion and Pete didn’t often argue. Unresolved differences were generally left to stagnate and eventually they too would drop and lie in a dormant silt of other pointless conversations that had never taken place. Arguing is unnecessary where compromise reigns.’

Hahah, brilliant! Another great observation and very well expressed. Flies on walls.

‘Phyllis extracted coins from a worn purse, one at a time, checking both sides before placing them on the counter tails up, poking them into an orderly row with a curled rheumatic finger. Marion eyed the queue, smiled apologetically and shifted back onto the right foot. Her ankles were killing her, feet swollen against the straps of her sandals, their flesh bulging out of the gaps.’

Great vignette with Phyllis Evans – nicely observed. I can just picture it. The mounting frustration ‘but that too was unacceptable. The correct action was to wait patiently,’ Love it!

‘The world was full of unjustified complaint’. Yep.

This family as with the family in chapter seven, the wife silently getting her own back. Made me smile.

‘the road to death was still a distant horizon and they were fools to focus on its hazy shimmer.’ I love the ‘they were fools to focus on its hazy shimmer’.

Things I wondered about:

‘chocolate fireguard’ Cliché? (or does it work because of the context. Not sure)

“Two sixty you say, love?”
I found myself thinking, ‘ooh, that seems cheap for fish and chips,’ then thinking ‘perhaps she has a pensioner’s special’. It kind of distracted me a bit.

Fair bit of ‘retirement’.

I'm still really enjoying this, wondering how it's all going to pan out. I find it very easy to get absorbed in your writing and love your style.

More later view book

written 375 days ago

I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity of reading this, I’ve been itching to for a while now and it’s been so frustrating that things elsewhere have got in the way to prevent me. This is fabulous writing, polished and well edited with some brilliant and often wry little observations. Your style seems natural and unselfconscious and your storyline makes me want to read on. Ranks amongst the most accomplished and ‘finished’ I’ve read here.

When I really like something I find myself ‘oooh, ooohing’ and frantically copying sentences, phrases, words that I like. I’ve copied whole chunks. This is just in tidied-up note form so I hope you can follow it.

Chapter 1

Things I loved:

‘I’d long ceased to be a riddle worth solving’.

‘Clothes that had once touched curves hung pathetically over sharp shoulders, dragging her towards the ground in future readiness.’ Very poignant, very visual.

I like the short staccato sentences.

‘She handed over a rigid cardboard box, lighter than her shaky hands suggested, and waited to be invited in. “What’s this?” An opaque mist clouded the old girl’s eyes. Marine blue viewed through a mid-day haze. She paused, lips moving in tiny, silent quivers, echoing the question, holding it still long enough to work a reply.“It’s your mother, Christine.”

Wow. “It’s your mother, Christine.” Gave me a sharp intake of breath. Brilliant line.

‘I liked her when I was little’
A lot contained in a little. You have the ability to do this over and over. Just a few words to describe whole concepts.

I thought the vignette with Alice on the beach was very touching.

‘Surfaces imbued with the steam of domestic effort. Simple menus learned with raw marital enthusiasm, perfected over decades, served and consumed in apathetic routine.’
Ooh, yes, yes, yes.

‘Whilst I waited, half-listening to half a conversation, I paced the rooms. Looking but not touching – part-visitor, part-curator – struck by both strangeness and familiarity, noting the location of objects long forgotten.’ Nice.

‘– and he’d be standing behind, rigid. Anger waiting for release. I hadn’t looked in the cupboard but I knew the pressure cooker would still be there.’
I liked the pressure cooker/ exploding anger analogy.

‘He sounded tired. He used to thrive on deadlines, now they were killing him.’

‘Twenty-one hundred hours’
– the man in a nutshell, says it all then following same theme ‘absent without leave’. Very good and again a whole character summed up in a few words.

‘She would have tidied my room, he would have gone to his shed to paint more relics, burn his gaze into
his own mistakes for a change.’
I love that you use ‘she’ and ‘he’ and ‘burn his gaze into his own mistakes for a change.’ an almost throw-away line but very effective.

‘The present is all we have – the rest is only anticipation or disappointment’
I really liked this. Is it an original or a quote from somewhere? (Great line but there’s a similar one in a later chapter which dilutes it a bit – Chapter 6).

‘the wooden hairbrush with its eerie embedded strands of white,’ so much conveyed in so few words

Evocative ‘copy of Jackie’

‘He was a man damaged by his own expectations.’ another brilliant line.

‘Banal calm’ lovely juxtaposition. Makes you feel calm just saying it.

I liked the ‘Attended to the detail’

‘And I was sure, had either man known in the heat of things what actually lay beyond that noise, they’d have willingly swapped survival for eternal glory. ‘ Great way to end the first chapter.

Things I wondered about:

‘Like a much loved blanket’ I wasn’t quite so keen on that, thought it might be a bit of a cliché

I’m not sure about ‘triteness personified’

Re: the dog dying. Do we need to know the owner is Judy?

Not sure about ‘no wonder the wallpaper looked depressed’

Not sure about ‘uber-modern’

I wondered what I’d missed when you used a capital for ‘Regret’

‘detritus’ you use this twice close together

Chapter 2

Things I loved:

This is a Marion chapter, written at a slower pace, clever of you to differentiate and help define the characters this way.

‘“Amen.” The rumble of voices punctuated the prayers with a full stop. Pews rattled as those able to kneel pushed themselves back into a seated position. Marion no longer took to her knees to pray, her bulk these days likely to wedge between the seat and the back of the neighbouring pew, but did at least lean forward uncomfortably – in solidarity with the more nimble, if nothing else.’
Hah, neatly observed.

‘Sunday was now the only day they had together, alone, as a couple, with no social responsibilities beyond morning church attendance. Sundays were a guilty treat. Sundays were their marital salvation. There had been a time when these precious afternoons – even in the summer months – were spent in bed, naked bodies fused in sunlight though open curtains, tenderness reconnecting two as one at the end of the working week, reinforcing love for the start of the next. But Marion was far too self-conscious for daylight sex now. These days they were more likely to take a walk on the beach, read the papers over tea in the garden or, in the colder months, light a fire and sit in silent togetherness. They’d once joked about being like an old couple and its echo had lingered, an uncomfortable truth.’

Loved ‘marital salvation’. This is so sad, so true, so poignant, makes me a bit teary if I think about it too long. Searingly heart-aching.

‘There’s an almost instinctive tendency to stop touching the elderly and it’s a loss they feel.’
D’you know I hadn’t thought about this before, but you’re right. I think that’s the mark of a good writer, to jolt the reader a little, make them recognise the previously unrecognised.

‘So, Chrissy had travelled. Or had she just kept running’

‘She felt her eyes prick; a heaviness pressing her down. A desire to ask him to just drive and keep on driving, until it grew dark and they ran out of fuel and she broke properly. But how many miles would that take? She’d already travelled thirty years on half-empty. ‘
Particularly liked the ‘She’d already travelled thirty years on half-empty’. (Now I see regrets with a capital R but maybe they’re my own).

You lead very nicely up to:

‘ “Who is she?” “The bitch who caused dad’s heart attack. I don’t want to talk about her.’

Things I wondered about:

You have ‘cradling a flower arrangement, its scent cloying in the stuffy air.’ is close to ‘sickening herself with the heavy scent of the bouquet.’


Things I loved:

‘had I known when I met him how high he’d rise, I might not have bothered pursuing the dream. Might just have settled on a slightly overweight, chain-smoking ticket to security. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.’
Sure is! I like this.

‘Add this to the wave’s crest, that absolute peak of success, and it’s impossible to see weakness, all you see is strength.’

‘You’d think only a fool would screw things up when they’ve achieved so much. It’s only later, when you’re in way too deep, that you discover you picked that fool.’
Great lines.

‘the new soft leather of her boots outclassing its weary fabric, pitted with cigarette burns and sticky with
old beer spills.’
Very good. Love the ‘outclassing’.

Clever writing. You don’t say ‘Chrissie has long blond hair’ You do have someone call her ‘Blondie’ and have her hair grazing the floor. Neat

I like the paragraphs from:
‘I’m travelling backwards again’…. to ……. ‘So I told her I wanted to put them in the garden.’
Great characterisation and emphasising the contrast with Marion.

‘Chrissy’ and ‘Christine’. I like the way you differentiate. I wonder if there’s a Chrissy and Christine in us all. The Chrissy in me has sneaked off to write this; the Christine should be hoovering before the family come over for lunch.

‘The girl says nothing. In punishing her mother she does not affect her father, but still she says nothing. Somebody has to feel it. She can’t bear all of this alone’
So true.

‘You can either move forward in the fog and never understand why life hurts so much, or you can start to think about the whole damn truth again, in reverse, until the muddle fades and you’re back where you first started – although by now, half your life has gone and you’re not sure you can be arsed to plod through the rest’
Bloody hell. Ever thought about taking up philosophy?! That’s just how it is.

Things I wondered about:

Not sure about ‘at the top of their game’

Chapter 4

Things I loved:

‘But people invent their own histories, one way or another. Selectively editing the past to impress or amuse or garner pity. It’s the way we tell stories.’
Love it

‘a wilful removal of the mundane’
Lovely phrase and I know just what you mean. ‘ My Pictures’, all holidays, Christmases and family gatherings – Ha, see you say virtually the same thing.

I liked (her father’s) ‘Disapproving flow’.

‘A desire to capture the truth ultimately only traps an insular lie, holds it for eternity – for endless interpretation – and the past becomes whatever the present desires.’

‘Even now, I feel him, smell him, see his eyes, taste his mouth, hear his words. I knew that passion. It was real. There are times I can reach out a hand in the dark and swear I touch him. And Pat. So brutally close. A furious loyalty. A measure of all I was and all I was not. Every clear recollection I have from those days hangs on these two passions. To have once felt so fiercely for other human beings is surreal to me now. To have lost it, even more so.’
I love ‘furious loyalty’ and ‘felt so fiercely’ and especially the final, deadening ‘To have lost it, even more so’

Things I wondered about:

Really sorry but didn’t know what ‘incalzando’ meant and had to look it up. Couldn’t find it in an online dictionary but did in a musical one. Me being thick probably. I would have guessed at something like ‘ebbing and flowing’ or ‘pulsating’.

‘And if I had to describe my teenage years in one word, it would be surreal.’

You use ‘surreal’ here and it crops up again, quite close, in the paragraph I quoted earlier

‘Even now, I feel him, smell him, see his eyes, taste his mouth, hear his words. I knew that passion. It was real. There are times I can reach out a hand in the dark and swear I touch him. And Pat. So brutally close. A furious loyalty. A measure of all I was and all I was not. Every clear recollection I have from those days hangs on these two passions. To have once felt so fiercely for other human beings is surreal to me now. To have lost it, even more so.’

Chapter 5

Things I loved:
‘Our edges are, shall we say, very irregular. It probably riled him to realise at that point how a twenty-year sporadic affair had revealed no more than flesh’
Wry smile. Another observation that has me shaking my head in acknowledgement.

‘I just needed him. He got a seat on a plane the next morning, broke his vows to Mrs Levy the Fourth, and my world readjusted at a pace of one day for each spoiled year.~ As he seems to have the knack of righting me when I tip,’
Very neat. So much conveyed in ‘broke his vows to Mrs Levy the Fourth’. Clever.

‘Various songs have appropriately summed up my life over the years. There isn’t one constant. I have favourites, or should I say a few regulars seek me out from time to time. It’s ironic, given my dislike of the backward glance, to appreciate words which emphasise the past. Words which hurt.’

I could have quoted any of the paragraphs relating to songs and recollections here. They all got to me. I particularly like here ‘a few regulars seek me out from time to time’,( yep, they creep up on us don’t they, not always when we expect them to, plunge us into an orgy of nostalgia) and’ It’s ironic, given my dislike of the backward glance, to appreciate words which emphasise the past.’

More later... view book