Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sara Waters

Valerie managed to grab the last tickets to an evening with Sara Waters, held at Tonbridge library yesterday– and invited me. Somewhat to our surprise, we found ourselves in the midst of a lesbian and gay month event. The room was full of maybe 60 people, mostly women, middle aged and of varying sexualities.

I say ‘surprised’ because I view Waters as a good writer, who is indeed a lesbian and often writes with lesbian themes or characters, but obviously for many of the women there, she is a great deal more than that. I don’t think we can really appreciate what it must feel like to have been invisible in mainstream literature, and then suddenly achieve visibility on an international level. They obviously love Sara for that. I think Valerie and I were the only people not queuing to have books signed and ‘me and’ photos taken.

The evening was conducted loosely as a conversation between Carol, a librarian and Sara and us all. Brilliant. Lots of good questions which were dealt with in a friendly, thorough and enlightening way. She comes across as charming, intelligent, gifted and hardworking. Your Own Correspondent posed a question that had bothered me about The Nightwatch (which we read for the blog in 2008) and that was, why did she choose to write it ‘backwards’ and thus compromise any narrative tension. Would she die in the bombing? We already know she didn’t. Her answer was illuminating as to how she writes: she wanted to write about 1947 (historical period is always her starting point) and the anticlimax of post-war Britain – especially for the many women (straight and gay) who had been liberated by the social upheavals of war. But is was too depressing she felt and didn’t know what to do with the story until she hit on going backwards to find out how her characters had ended up as they did. Quite fascinating – she obviously constructs period, context and characters and then develops their stories, rather than planning out a plot first. This is true of her other books as well, and she gave some examples from The little stranger, a post-war ‘ghost’ story. Valerie and I though this might be a later blog book.

Anyway, a superb evening and if you ever get the chance to hear her speak, take it. I’m rather surprised, on rereading my blog on The Nightwatch, that I wasn’t overly impressed. I’d like to reread it but have obviously lent my copy to someone – any of you?