Today I am pleased to welcome Lizzie Allen to the Love Of A Good Book!
Writing is a third career for Lizzie as she previously worked as TV Producer and before that in PR. She lives in London with her husband (who looks like James Bond!) and has a daughter at Edinburgh University studying history and history of art, and son who models for Elite International and is currently swanning around the world on a gap year.
About the Book
Young, bored housewife, Faith Cotton, escapes her stifling Chelsea life when her husband suggests they decamp to a tiny island in the Greek Cyclades for the summer.
He works for the foreign office and has the inside scoop on ‘the Greek situation’. Europe is pouring money into Greece and, far from going down the plughole, Andrew believes that the island of Iraklia will soon see a tourist boom.
Faith is left in charge of finding them a permanent holiday home on the island, but things don’t go to plan – over the course of a summer, Faith’s doomed marriage begins to unravel, and far from finding the house she set out for, she finally discovers the person she really is. . .
The hardest part of writing Chick Lit is coming up with the sex scenes! I have two teenaged children and you can imagine what they think about their mum writing saucy stuff. (Surely they were just dropped down the chimney by a stork!??)
After Fifty Shades of Grey I didn’t want to make this story all about the sex (who could compete on that front?) however I did want to tackle the issue of sexuality in relation to passivity since that’s a big theme in the book.
The main character Fay Cotton, has become a virtual automaton to the extent that she has sacrificed her own ambitions and desires to the altar of her husband’s career. ‘His is the footprint in life we follow,’ she bemoans in the first chapter, ‘he carries me on my back so that I need not get my feet dirty and leave any footprints at all.’
Fay has also become deadened by beautification (if there is such a thing). Her days morph into one long beauty routine as she exfoliates, plucks, peels, moisturizes and shops for things to adorn her body. She says rather melodramatically that boredom and fear of aging are eating into her subconscious, smudging out what was left of her, particle by particle, causing her brain to collapse into itself like a space-time wormhole.
Fay speaks in a rather dry sardonic voice about the position she finds herself in. As a reader I am completely in love with the work of Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Survivor) and am fascinated by the way his characters unpack the existential angst of their generation with such deliciously dry irony. While I in no way compare myself to that great writer, I wanted my main character to be comically scathing about her shortcomings so that we laugh with her in her unhappiness, not at her. I felt her dispassionate self-reflection was a useful tool in developing the idea that, in order to save herself, she needs to become more objective in identifying what’s making her feel so low.
As Fay begins to unfurl and confront her own destiny, so too must she confront the issue of her frigidity. In the early part of the book she justifies lacklustre sex with her husband by telling herself it’s good for her figure:
‘The average orgasm burns sixty to a hundred calories. That’s seven thousand five hundred calories per year assuming you have sex three times a week. The equivalent of jogging seventy-five miles.’
To keep her husband happy, she fakes orgasms while she drily tells readers she’s rather be jogging the seventy-five miles! As a feminist, I find the notion of faked organisms or duplicity in the bedroom abhorrent. If women cannot be honest about who they are during intimacy, how can they be honest about their desires in the context of the wider world?
By the same token, later in the novel when Fay starts to find her feet, I chose not to depict her as a meek receptacle of desire (as per the Fifty Shades-model), but an equal participant with equal power and resourcefulness. Whether or not my children ever speak to me again remains another issue entirely J