Jigsaw Island – finding the comedy in tragedy

Top: Agios Isidoros Chapel, Leros, Dodecanese Islands

Below: Refugees, Lakki Harbour, Leros

Much as I enjoy humour, increasingly I see the balance between comedy and tragedy. Like yin and yang, they are co-dependent, one acting as a foil to the other. At Reading University, we students were given a stern rebuttal of the theory that Shakespeare’s ‘comic relief’ is there to ‘lighten up’ the serious content of a play. The argument was that what many see as light relief is, in fact, a reflection on the darker elements of a play delivered in dramatic contrast to give them dimension and greater potency. The Porter’s speech in Macbeth is an excellent example.

As I write my second novel, Jigsaw Island, set in the Greek Islands of Symi and Leros, I am struggling to find comic irony in the crisis that faces refugees and the islanders who offer them aid. Not even bitter comedy feels appropriate. The further I investigate, the more outrage I feel, the greater becomes my anger at the Western powers who have caused and now perpetrate the conflict in Syria and elsewhere. Their failure to alleviate the appalling suffering of thousands of displaced people or assist those who are prepared to help them is both abysmal and callous. The misery on one side and contempt on the other continue and the media is losing interest.

The research I have done relies in part on personal experience of the islands and contact with friends and acquaintances who are or have been involved with assisting refugees. They tell some very dark stories. I will continue to wrestle with a way of using comedy as a literary device to prompt consideration because I believe that provoking amusement then asking the viewer or reader to question their reaction is a powerful tool in the writer’s kit.

Jigsaw Island will be a darker novel than its predecessor, Terrible With Raisins. But I’m working to create equally engaging characters who are capable of inspiring laughter as well as illuminating uncomfortable truths in theirs and the lives of others.

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Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Greek Islands, Humour, Life on the edge, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Performance art in Torbay – The Tale

It was much more than that. For three weeks in September The Tale took its mobile audience through memorabilia, sea trips, promenade and venue based performance art, sound installations and the spoken word provided by the young people of Torbay. Martyn and I were privileged to be part of it. This is a link to the Guardian review:

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/aug/28/taste-arts-festival-torquay-brixham-english-riviera-devon-torbay

My particular favourites were The Alphington Ponies – a representation of two sisters who lived in Torquay in the 1840s and promenaded in identical costume and exaggerated make up every day at 3 pm, weather permitting. They had moved from Alphington, an Exeter suburb, with their mother as a comfortable middle class family whose head of the family was in the military. When their father died, the money ran out and the ponies and trap had to be sold. But the name ‘Alphington Ponies’ stuck. They were figures of interest, ridicule and some sympathy. In their later years, they returned to Exeter and, when one sister died, the other was to be seen, promenading alone. It was fortunate, perhaps, that her loneliness did not endure too long.:

 

 

And the seascape sound installation at Berry Head by Chris Watson, an experienced and highly skilled sound recordist known best, perhaps, for his work on the many David Attenborough series of wildlife programmes. The range of sound and setting engulfed and moved the listener, from sea birds to cetaceans, cliffs to coral life. Chris Watson’s website:

http://chriswatson.net/2017/08/17/chris-away/

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Thanks to Jill’s Book Cafe for a great review on Amazon

4.0 out of 5 stars Sun, sea and Symi with a dose of real life, 23 Feb. 2017
This review is from: Terrible With Raisins (Paperback)
“… there was something, something pretty terrible… Not just plain terrible. This was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it…” – Dorothy Parker (on turning fifty), The Middle or Blue Period.

I enjoy reading books about women whose angst about love, life, health and everything in between is something I can identify with and this book met that brief perfectly. Clair is approaching, for her, the dreaded big 5-0 and finds herself spending it on Symi, the Greek island she had visited when she was young , free and single. Only this time round she is with her truculent teenage daughter Jess. The holiday proves to be a watershed; bringing many things to a head – not least of which is the end of her pedestrian and lack lustre relationship with Howard, while embarking on a volatile fling with holiday rep Fraser.

Once back home, real life re-asserts itself with a vengeance and Clair finds herself overwhelmed with family crises and employment issues. The delights of Symi suddenly seem a long time ago, though not without repercussions that result in changes she could never have imagined.

OK negatives first so we can move on the many positives. I found the book took a while to settle into due to the lack of quotation marks and having to hark back to the beginning of the chapter to see who was speaking. This, combined with internal thoughts being inserted in italics meant until I had a better grasp of characters I was occasionally confused. Of course that could equally well be nothing to do with the format and have more to do with my age! It should also be said that while initially confusing, it was a clever way of really getting to understand the characters inside and out – eventually. While I also enjoyed the stay on Symi, for me it could have been a little shorter, I became far more engaged when Clair and Jess returned home and the book took on a less flippant tone. There that’s it, and I acknowledge they are things which other readers may well not bothered by.

So the positives, the characters were very well drawn and I really liked Clair and was rooting for her to get to grips with her age and relationship challenges so that she could forward in a positive way. She was a very realistic mix of confidence with episodic moments of diffidence. My favourite character though was Clair’s Aunt Maggie. While appearing as a minor character in the beginning, her continued and growing presence throughout the book, reflected her constant and important role in Clair’s life. Her back story was a poignant one and her warmth, wisdom and caring nature was a balance to that of Clair’s mother.

Despite Jess, being the only teenager, with typical teenage tantrums and attitudes, through the course of the book she did grow up and come of age. In a way she was not the only one, as the book saw many characters grow; start to feel comfortable in their own skin and realise what was important in their lives and what they wanted from it. Clair, her erstwhile lover Harold and her fledgling lover Fraser being prime examples.

For me it was a mix of sun, sea, and yes sex in Symi for the first part, that perfectly captured the holiday romance and the Greek holiday resort culture set against the humorous background of a package holiday. Anyone who has ‘done’ a guided package holiday will recognise the characters that are part of any group, only this time you can enjoy their antics at someone else’s expense! The second part of the book, still had its humorous moments but was a more reflective and adult look at life and the challenges it can bring. As such it had a little bit of everything that combined to present an enjoyable and accomplished debut novel.

Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Greek Islands, Humour, Life on the edge, Writing | Tagged | 1 Comment

New review on Amazon – thank you Nommie

5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than a birthday with a zero at the end and a 5 at the beginning., 11 Feb. 2017
By
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This review is from: Terrible With Raisins (Paperback)
This book is beautifully written, a story about much more than simply turning 50!
The story unfolds from several people’s point of view as the main characters journey between the beautiful Greek Islands, the suburbs London and remotest Scotland. It is incredibly funny in parts, subtle and I felt bordering on a Mike Leigh comedy script at times. It is also heart-wrenching as misunderstandings occur between people. Descriptive, rounded and real, warts and all I found myself really caring what happened to the various characters during the interactions between them. I think Lynne McVernon is an exquisite observer of human nature and I didn’t want it to end – I wanted more.
Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Greek Islands, Humour, Life on the edge, Writing | 3 Comments

Pathways – take a look at a play in progress…

Click on the Pathways page – above – and let me know what you think.

Some important issues are highlighted including care of the disabled and the way in which carers are treated – particularly those from overseas.

Synopsis exists but in malleable form…

Posted in Health Care, Social Care, Theatre, Writing | Leave a comment

And that other Aegean gem, Leros.

It was Symi that inspired a large part of Terrible With Raisins but, since first visiting there, Leros has usurped first place in my Greek Island heart. Less commercial than Symi and with an astonishing WWII history (like all the Greek Islands), Leros was particularly important because of its harbour, Lakki, the deepest in the Eastern Aegean. I missed my visit there this year but next year is a must. It’s very much in my mind to set a novel there, either a sequel to Terrible With Raisins or a completely new storyline.

Aghia Isidoros is one of the many little chapels dotting the island. In contrast, evidence of Leros’s wartime record is manifest in the spent cartridge shells used as gateposts or other adornment. There is also a fascinating war museum in Merikia.

Last time I was there, I witnessed the extraordinary compassion and generosity shown by some of the islanders to refugees who had literally washed up on their beaches (or been rescued). In the midst of appalling austerity inflicted by the EU, Greek Islanders have reached out to help others worse off than themselves. So my love is not just for Leros but for those islanders, some now my friends, who have demonstrated the very finest part of being human.

Much as I hate to share Leros with anyone, it’s unfair not to… Leros

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Aghia Isidoros, Leros

Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Greek Islands, Personal, Writing | 1 Comment

Feature by Anne Williams – lucky, lucky TWR!

Anne Williams on Terrible With Raisins HERE 

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