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I guess I don’t get to list all the people I’m so glad to know and see — again. But I do want to express one thing: welcome back Deborah! She’s moved her site. And I for one am breathing a sigh of relief. Life without Deborah’s sparkle hardly bears thinking about.

I’m hanging onto your sparkle, Deborah….

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I’ve progressed from pedometer to gym. Oh yes I have. So far (okay, two days in) I absolutely love it. I know I’m behind with this. I know it. Don’t write and tell me. But being inside my own music, cycling, or doing the dreaded chin-ups…It’s not that far off my all time favourite activity, now limited by my knees. I can deal with hard work to good music, anyway.

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I am not doing any writing. Just thought I’d make that clear. I could list everything else I’ve done — a chicken without the proverbial, in truth — but the heart of the matter is pretty simple. If I don’t make space soon, there’s not going to be much reason to carry on doing much of anything.

Any five minute a day bright ideas? I need a writing personal trainer. Embarrassingly, I’ve let myself go. To rack and ruin.

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It’s been a tough old week. After Tilly, a number of things. But it’s also been life-affirming in many ways. Mainly because of friends. And R and Mom. And E and M. 

I came to friends late in life, having the ‘desert them before they desert me’ mentality of someone used to not trusting anyone. For good reason, I might add.

Anyway. Despite several wonderfully loyal and giving friends hanging with me through my teens, twenties and most of my thirties, it wasn’t until my late thirties that I finally stopped running. I looked around. I saw wonderful women (mostly) around me, offering friendship, true friendship. Most of them had been there for some time. I have the feeling somehow they just decided not to give up on me. For which I remain absurdly grateful. Such a simple thing.

I have a thing about not taking anything for granted. Seems almost disrespectful to do so. Yet some things are meant to be taken for granted. They flourish by being as a ‘matter of course’; they quietly sink roots beyond the surface, where wind and a heavy rain can’t dislodge them. They need tending, but only in the daily run of things, no more, no less. They are there, no matter what happens.

No matter what happens! No matter what happens. This is the secret celebration for me, the unexpected. It’s no big deal, no drama. No questions need to be asked, no unspoken price.

Two phonecalls, three texts, many blog comments. Several emails. Four, five, six face to face conversations. A raucous dinner.

So, to all of you, thank you. I’m not looking forward to the week ahead, but — cliche upon cliche — you’re making it bearable.

I started this post wanting to point you to my good friend Nancy Wilson‘s Flickr widget that I’m so thrilled with. I love her stuff, really love it. I just wanted a bit of her kind of light on these pages. 

To get you started. And me. Happy Monday.


At long last I’m able to get to something I’ve wanted to (get to) for a few days now. Things tend to amble into my (our) path(s) though, some enjoyable — the antics of the children, my time away, the Night Train launch — and some not so enjoyable — a grotty cold!

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Rachel Sarai’s VineyardSo. What I’m wanting to mention is Rachel Sarai’s Vineyard, by Deborah Rey. I finished it just before I went away, and thankfully any fear I had of it fading was unfounded: this is a book that stays with you.

The book moves between the grown-up Rachel’s world where her mother is dying and where she is left to deal with the funeral — and the child Rachel’s world where she is a runner for the Resistance, and where a triangulated emotional and psychological battle takes place between her mother, her father, and the beautiful violinist, Marie.

This is also a book that doesn’t pull any punches. The narrative style in the ‘present day’ voice of grown up Rachel swings between rancourous and sarcastic — and is at times insoluably vulnerable. The ‘child Rachel’ voice is closer to reportage: visual, slowly paced, and dealing more plainly with symbolism, letting emotional weight gather. Young Rachel’s wisdom, her determination to ‘be strong’ mixed with a real need and desire to love and be loved is… heartbreaking. Throughout the book, we are reminded of who she was, what was taken from her — and who she is now, what she has inevitably become, her own battles fought.

There are several striking, visceral scenes in the book, which Rey tackles with considerable courage. I found myself wanting to turn away, not to witness this — yet I had to, because Rachel had, and because, in some strange way as a grown-up now myself, I had to. I owed it to her to be with her, as no one had been with her then.

I cried twice while reading this book, and as I say practically held the book at arm’s length on two further occasions. I was flung all over the place.

More than anything, Rachel Sarai’s Vineyard strikes me as a book that absolutely had to be written. The experiences in it simply could not go unrecorded. I can only guess that it must have been simultaneously hellish and uplifting to write, the kind of piece you write with your hand over your mouth. You mustn’t say anything, but then again — then again — you must. And Deborah Rey has.

Now that this particular ice cap has been smashed through, it seems to me that there is at least another book in these experiences. It’s safe water now — not exactly clear sailing — but my instinct tells me the worst is over. I was particularly taken by the lyrical, observational, generous voice of young Rachel, and suspect she has more to say.

Rachel Sarai’s Vineyard is published by — yes — bluechrome, that Portishead bastion of the nearly unconventional. And I think that bluechrome being what it is has allowed this book full voice, much to the credit of author and publisher. A limited Special Edition is available now, and the full print run follows in April 2008.

As in ‘watch out, it’s just going to keep coming!’. I’ve never known if this is a saying unique to my mother, or of the Southern US in general. If anyone has an inkling, do let me know…

There’s good reason to make such a comment this morning, though, because another fine review of Losing You has surfaced, this time from the Authortrek site. Despite blushing from the ‘flavour of the book’ section, I’m of course delighted — here’s most of the review bit, about which I’m blushing too, come to think of it (hence the pink):

This is a truly fantastic first novel from Patricia Debney, which all kicks off when Marilyn’s son Lewis asks “What happens when you die?” The prose and the plotting are very subtle, but also deliciously enticing. It’s not a surprise to discover that Patricia Debney’s short stories have been published in various anthologies, and that she is an award-winning poet…Her characterisation is superb, as Losing You is masterfully split between the narratives of Marilyn and her friend Hilary, along with very convincing portraits of their husbands…So, hats off to Bluechrome for recognising another brilliant writer.

Heavens!

Anyway, glad to see plaudits directed at bluechrome as well. Us authors have been swishing our hats off to the fastest growing publisher in Portishead for some time…

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Rachel Sarai’s VineyardAlso through today from Authortrek is a super review of Deborah Rey’s Rachel Sarai’s Vineyard. Which, coincidentally, I’ve so nearly finished myself! I won’t say more yet — but it is thoroughly engrossing.

All this just as Losing You comes out in paperback — and when Rachel Sarai’s Vineyard isn’t even on general release yet.

So watch out.

I HAVE MOVED

From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning

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Who am I?


A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.