Monthly Archives: June 2015

Flash! Friday – ‘Unforeseen’

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, promotional still from 1936.  Public domain photo, sourced at flashfriday.wordpress.com

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, promotional still from 1936.
Public domain photo, sourced at flashfriday.wordpress.com

Unforeseen

It’s there, in my mind, like a weed. This was too easy.

She’s never left the cage unlocked before. Not even for her cigarette breaks, or to eat – though she doesn’t eat much, now. But this morning she rose from her desk, mid-sentence, a ribbon of smoke rising from her ashtray, and left the room.

My cage stood open.

I ran, of course. Who wouldn’t? It’s not that she mistreats me, but captivity is a torment. I’m a free spirit. I’m –

Oh, Zeus. She’s coming! It’s been so long since I was loose that I can’t remember where I am, or where to go. I must hide! But she keeps me in rags, barefoot, and anyway I may not leave this dwelling. Separated from her, I will die. Is that irony? I should know.

Every writer needs a Muse, and I am hers, soul-bound. She doesn’t need to cage me, but she can’t trust me to stay.

I reach a dead end. I turn, desperate, but she is behind me.

There you are,’ she croons. ‘Enjoy your run? Had to get your blood up, somehow. You’ve really been underperforming lately.’ Her smile is a sudden blade.

Ah, me. My fatal flaw? Plot twists have long been my undoing.

***

So – yay! This piece of flash fiction has taken me *hours* to complete, but hey. I finished it. It’s mine! I did it! It’s been so long since I entered any sort of flash fiction competition that I half-expected never to complete a piece again, so I’m glad I proved myself wrong. My old brain cells aren’t firing on full power, as is clear from the Titanic struggle this story caused within me, but heck. A challenge ain’t a challenge if it ain’t hard, right?

So. You’re going to head on over to Flash! Friday and throw your name in the ring, right? You’re not going to leave me hanging? Good friends don’t do that sort of thing. Go on. Go on. Go on, go on, go on, you will, you will, go on…

Finding the Flow

Yesterday, I had to have some medical tests done (Nothing serious! Don’t go rushing to purchase yards of black tulle and/or order the memorial cards just yet), and they were not fun. These things rarely are, I find. They involved several blood draws, which had to occur after I’d been fasting, including no water (the unimaginable cruelty!) for 12 hours.

I’m a deep-veined, thin-veined person, and I’m comfortably upholstered. Finding a suitable vessel from which to take a blood sample is challenging at the best of times, for even the most gifted of phlebotomists. However, when one hasn’t eaten or drunk anything for half a day beforehand, it means that, basically, the nurse and I were one step away from getting out a naked blade and slashing me with it in order to get the samples she needed.

We didn’t, though. FYI.

'Hold still, dear! This won't hurt a bit, I promise!' Photo Credit: megadem via Compfight cc

‘Hold still, dear! This won’t hurt a bit, I promise!’
Photo Credit: megadem via Compfight cc

In the course of the mutilation… I mean, examination, the nurse chatted away to me, as nurses are wont to do when they’re seeking to distract you from the fact that they’re holding a nasty-looking needle which is thirsting for your blood. Among the topics we discussed were what I did with myself on a daily basis, and my career – and, for once, I didn’t bluster and splutter and make something up, as I sometimes do when real adults ask me about myself, but I told her the truth.

‘I write books for children,’ I said, with every pretence at confidence. ‘Actually, I have a deal with a US publisher, and my book will be coming out next year.’

‘Really?‘ she said, bright-eyed, as she jabbed the needle in. ‘Well, isn’t that just fabulous.’ As the trickle began to do its thing, she asked me all about the book, and what it was about, and where it was set, and how long it took to write, and all manner of other questions. The words flowed out of my desiccated body a lot more easily than my blood did, and I told her all about it because it was better than thinking about what was going on.

She was rapt. Now, I’m aware she was somewhat of a captive audience, and didn’t (let’s be fair) have a whole lot else to do at the time, as I’m sure taking blood is something she could do in her sleep. But still. Her interest appeared genuine. She was fascinated by the book’s setting, which is sort of an imagined version of our own world, transposing a lot of our modern environmental problems onto a older historical setting, and she was interested to know about the age bands in children’s and Young Adult literature. A lot of people don’t think of ‘children’s books’ as being anything besides picture books or early readers for 5-8 year olds; they tend to forget about the richness of the Middle Grade years, the 8-12s, where my heart lies. She listened to me witter on about why I’d written the book, and what it meant to me, and over the course of the hours I spent going in and out of her office periodically so she could stab me afresh, we got quite pally over the whole ‘book-writin” thing.

Reader, I felt accomplished. I actually felt interesting. And I learned that I can talk about my book, without hesitation or preparation or hitch, quite freely. It’s an interesting counterpoint to my PhD thesis, which I could never talk about without getting myself into a tangled mess and convincing myself, by the end of my speech, that my work was a load of old cobblers which would add nothing to the sum of human achievement. That was if I could get past the ‘Um. Well. Um. It’s sort of like – er. Well, it’s as if – okay. Right. Well, if you can imagine three imaginative worlds in medieval literature, right, um, like bubbles? Or maybe as fields on a Venn diagram? You know, overlapping?’ bit, which normally put most people to sleep. I used to put terrible pressure on myself, too, knowing all the way through my doctoral studies that at the end of the writing process I’d have to face an oral examination, during which I’d have to speak about my thesis for hours on end; that was almost enough to put me over the edge.

But I did manage it, just about. It took over three years of work, though. My book is easier to talk about, and I’m not sure why – it came from my soul, sure, but so did my thesis. My thesis was being examined, but so – in a way – is my book. My thesis brought me work, albeit temporary, but so will my book. They’re almost exactly the same, yet talking about my book is so much easier.

Perhaps if I’d had airships and derring-do and scary villains and marvellous machines in my PhD thesis I’d have found it easier to talk about – but that would’ve left very little magic left over to siphon into The Eye of the North. So, maybe all those years of stuttering about my thesis were worth it. The work I did then has led me, in a roundabout way, to where I am today – and where I am today, needles and uncertainty and stress aside, is a pretty good place.

And hopefully I’ll have the chance to talk about my book a lot more over the coming years, to lots of people, and hopefully (fingers crossed!) they’ll be as charmed to hear about it as my kind and patient phlebotomy nurse was yesterday. Meeting her was almost worth the pain.

(Almost).

Howl at the Solstice – the Flashdogs are Back

The Flashdogs are back – and, once again, I’m privileged to be included among their number.

Flashdogs Solstice Light and Dark Anthologies. Image: thedustlounge.com

Flashdogs Solstice Light and Dark Anthologies.
Image: thedustlounge.com

Yesterday was Solstice Day (‘Light’ or ‘Dark’, depending on your hemisphere) and in order to celebrate this, and to celebrate the best in new flash fiction, the compilers and Giant Brains behind the first Flashdogs Anthology decided to bring out a new collection of stories. But this time they didn’t merely produce one book; they produced two.

This time around, the writers were asked to produce stories based around particular prompt images. All of them had something to do with light, or dark, endings or beginnings, life or death – and a myriad other interpretations, as defined by the observer. We were asked to bear the idea of ‘solstice’ in mind as we wrote (though encouraged to avoid cliché, so that meant a take on the Stonehenge scene from This Is Spinal Tap probably wouldn’t have been appropriate – and no bad thing, either), and invited to contribute anything between one and four stories each. I am proud to say that I have a story in each volume, one in Solstice Light and one in Solstice Dark, and they are stories I am rather proud of. As before, with the first Flashdogs Anthology (which is still available for sale here, in case you’re interested in a copy), the proceeds on all sales are being donated to charity. This time around, they’re going to The Book Bus, an amazing organisation which seeks to encourage literacy and book ownership among children in Africa, Asia and South America. So, you get over a hundred quality, well-crafted stories, and The Book Bus gets a donation, and the world becomes a better place all round. What could be better?

I want to say a huge thanks to Tam Rogers, Emily June Street, Mark A. King and David Shakes, the geniuses (genii?) behind the Flashdogs phenomenon, and to express my delight (and surprise, to be honest) that they’ve asked me to join their pack not once, but twice. It’s been a huge pleasure to support them and to take part in the anthologies, and I hope the Flashdogs’ howl is heard long and loud for many moons to come. Awooo!

Links to purchase:

Flashdogs Anthology 1

Flashdogs Anthology 2

Book Review Saturday – ‘The Gracekeepers’

This book promised many things. It bears a cover blurb from the legendary Ursula Le Guin, and its back cover compares it to Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson and Margaret Atwood ‘at their best’ – and that’s pretty high praise, by anyone’s standards. This was a book I waived my usual rules for: I didn’t read any of it before it came home with me, because its beautiful cover seduced me completely.

Image: whatson-north.co.uk

Image: whatson-north.co.uk

Yes, dear readers. We have been here before. Me and beautiful covers… sigh. Sometimes, it doesn’t end well.

Now, before I carry on: there is plenty to love about this book. For one, its language. At several places I stood or sat amazed by Kirsty Logan’s turns of phrase, and how she makes things which seem so ordinary – apples, trees, the sea – seem so new and never-before-seen through her wonderful descriptions. Her writing is impeccable and beautiful, and it certainly has echoes and traces of the work of Atwood and Winterson and Carter, and even the mighty Le Guin herself. However, there’s no debut novel in the universe which can bear the weight of being compared to these luminaries of the craft. The Gracekeepers reads beautifully, and its setting (otherworldly? Dystopian? A bit of both?) is intriguing and rewarding and immersive, but there are problems, to my mind, with the plot.

And yes. I have read Carter, Winterson, Atwood and Le Guin. I’m aware that sometimes, in those books, plot takes a back-seat to characterisation, language, and world-building. Even bearing all this in mind, I can’t help but think that The Gracekeepers didn’t quite work for me.

The book is set on a world where land is scarce and coveted, and most people live on the water, and it tells the interweaving stories of two young, very different, women. One, Callanish, is a ‘gracekeeper’, a person charged with the proper burial (at sea) of the dead who are brought to her, and the correct observation of mourning traditions. As she is the title character, I expected that she would be the central figure in the story, but she’s only one of many important players. The other main character is North, who lives and works with a travelling circus along with her beloved bear, who forms part of her act. The circus is jammed full of colourful, overwhelming characters – the ringmaster Jarrow (called ‘Red Gold’, for reasons which were never clear to me, by North); his pregnant wife Avalon; Jarrow’s son Ainsel who is promised in marriage to North (despite the fact that neither of them want one another); Whitby and Melia, the trapeze artists, who play with expectation, telling people at times they are siblings, and others that they are lovers; the gender-playing clowns Cash, Dosh and Dough, and others. When a sudden death among the circus players necessitates a visit to a gracekeeper, North and Callanish meet for the first time – and then spend months apart, occasionally thinking about one another, before being reunited near the book’s end. During the time they are not together, we see North coming to terms with a personal crisis which is worsening as the months pass, and her attempts to extricate herself from her impending marriage – which will entail being forced to live on land, something which Red Gold wants for her and for his son, as he feels it’s a mark of privilege. North, however, is at home on the sea, in her floating circus, and wants nothing more than to be free, along with her bear. We also see Callanish facing up to a mistake she made in her youth which has meant her self-imposed exile as a gracekeeper, a hard life of solitude and deprivation (though one she appears, at some levels, to enjoy), and her return home to try to make amends. There isn’t, however, a lot of overlap between these stories. Besides the totally coincidental fact that the two women meet early in play, and remain in one another’s minds throughout, there’s no real logic behind their relationship. Then, perhaps, this is true of any life-changing connection between people.

There are ‘themes’ in this book, as opposed to a plot. Motherhood, pregnancy, solitude, companionship, gender roles, performativity, and love all feature heavily – and some of it (particularly the parts about motherhood and pregnancy) are beautiful, heartfelt and touching. I loved North’s relationship with her bear, and in fact her whole existence as part of the floating circus, which was very well imagined and described. Other parts, such as Callanish’s back story and her entire reason for existing (as a gracekeeper, I mean, not as a person!) weren’t so compelling. The reasons behind ‘the graces’ – birds in cages which are allowed to starve to death, and whose remains are then deposited in the sea, by which time the appropriate mourning period for a dead person is seen to have come to an end – made very little sense, and in a world which is mainly water, one had to wonder where all the birds came from. Lots of the story was left unexplained at the end, and while I appreciated how North and Callanish’s stories played out, some of the other characters weren’t as well treated. I was frustrated by the fact that so many questions still hung in my mind at the book’s conclusion and by the fact that there was a bit of repetition between the storylines, and by the heavy-handed comments on gender and gender roles which cropped up from time to time. I appreciated what these comments were trying to say, but they did get a bit tedious the more often they were repeated.

This isn’t a ‘realistic’ novel, and I appreciate that. However,  I still would have liked a little more logic, a little more explanation, and a little more world-building to set beside the beautiful language and the delicate characterisation. It was certainly an interesting and intelligent book, one which I enjoyed and whose style I admired, but it left me wishing for more at the end – and not in the sense of ‘I wish there was more of this story to read’. I wished there had been more story to go on in the first place. The Gracekeepers has elements of all the monumental authors to whose work it has been compared, and I can certainly see the similarities, but it is also a creature of its own, with its own flaws and shortcomings and accomplishments. I’d counsel giving it a go – it’s certainly worth reading – but it hasn’t dislodged Winterson, Le Guin, Carter or Atwood from their places in my firmament.

In Extremis, De Profundis

I wanted to blog yesterday, but to be honest I spent the day feeling scraped out, hollow, raw. There was nothing in me worth sharing. Anything I might have written which didn’t express this reality would have been a lie, and it would have been a waste of the time of anyone who took the time to read it.

So I didn’t write anything. But today the hollowness has been replaced by a deep, gnawing anger. And that I can write about.

I am Caucasian. European. Irish all the way down. I don’t have any other ethnicities in my genetic makeup. This means I am freckly, pale, prone to sunburn, likely to be Vitamin D deficient, prone to depression and alcoholism, and a whole host of other drawbacks that come with being ‘pure-bred’. I can’t help this; I didn’t choose to be born to my parents, in my country, at the time I came into being.

Just like everyone else in history.

I have no right to claim any sort of kinship with any of the men and women who died on Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina. I have no intention of doing so. Their struggle, and the struggle of Black people in America on a daily basis, is not mine. But I am still a human being, and just because I have no part to play in their efforts doesn’t mean I am not allowed to feel compassion for those efforts, and to feel devastated and sick at what happened in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. And I do feel devastated and sick. I also feel hopeless. I feel afraid, though I know my fear must be of a different calibre to that felt by people of colour who face discrimination every day. My fear is more for the future of the human species as a whole, not for my personal survival. I’m aware there are people for whom fear about their personal survival is a daily challenge, and I wish so much that this wasn’t true.

That this atrocity happened in the same week as the tragic accident in Berkeley, California, which claimed the lives of six Irish students, is overwhelming. Such loss, and such destruction, and such sorrow, and it’s hard to see a way through.

Sometimes I wish there was a way to not feel things. Just sometimes, you know? A switch you could flick or a button you could push to cut yourself off for a while, like Data’s emotion chip in ‘Star Trek’. But if we could do that, would we have the courage to turn it back on again, and let the tide of emotion flood through us once more? Or would we take refuge in the coldness of disconnected self-interest, caring about nothing but what impacts us directly?

Well. I’m glad, in many ways, that I’ll never have the answer to that question, and I’m scared to think of all the people who seem to have that chip enabled all the time, the ‘I’m all right, Jack’ types who refuse to see or experience the interconnectedness of all humanity, and who have no compassion for anyone who isn’t exactly like them.

Why aren’t there easy answers to the questions of how we are supposed to interact with one another? Why do our basest instincts always come to the fore? Why do we allow greed and small-mindedness and bigotry to win out over simple, generous compassion? Why do we always live down to our lowest expectations of ourselves? Will we ever change – can we?

Jon Stewart says it better than I can. He says it better than most people can, I guess.

A Writer’s Carpetbag

Let’s imagine we have Mary Poppins’ carpetbag. It’s essentially endless, yet totally portable (and sports a snazzy, fashionable print). You can put anything you like into it, up to and including livestock – though it might be an idea not to weigh yourself down too much with excess.

We’re going to put into it all the things we need to be a writer.

Photo Credit: clothalbatross via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: clothalbatross via Compfight cc

First of all, you need a spark of something impossible. You know those perpetual motion machines that aren’t supposed to exist, in reality? Well, sometimes I think a writer’s self-belief is a bit like one of those machines. It feeds on nothing, gets no input from anywhere, is barely maintained, and yet manages to keep running. So – yes. The first thing in our writer’s carpetbag is: something impossible.

Then, you need courage. Not just the type of courage that lets you take risks, but the type that sees the value in daydreaming and the type that knows how important it is to tell stories and the type that’s not afraid to dive down into the darkest bits of life. You need the sort of courage that means when you end up in a locked room with a minotaur, you don’t go down without a fight. Put your courage in beside your impossible thing, and let them nestle together.

After that, you need enthusiasm. You need to be able to keep yourself enthused in the face of boredom, general disinterest, rejection and even downright hatred, and you need to be able to maintain your focus on what makes it all worthwhile – the words that you love. (I find getting the sort of enthusiasm that you can sprinkle is the most useful. So, sprinkle in a big generous handful over your courage and your impossible thing, and watch them sparkle).

Now, this next one is a bit hard to handle, so you’ve got to be careful. You also need sticking power, the sort of thing that keeps you plugging away even when it feels like there’s no point. You need something to stick your impossible thing, your courage and your enthusiasm together (and to keep them stuck, through everything), and which will also help you to stick yourself to your chair, your schedule, your commitment – whatever you need sticking to. You’ve got to take your time with sticking power, though, and make sure you pick it up and treat it properly, and store it correctly. It can get everywhere, sticking you to the wrong things, and it also tends to go off quickly. So, be aware of that.

You need love – of stories, of words, of books and bookselling and publishing and the whole world that revolves around writing. You need to keep this love even when it seems like things aren’t going your way. You need to never reach a point where you couldn’t be bothered to read, or take an interest in others’ success, or in developments in the world of publishing, because if you reach that point it’s hard to claw your way back. If you don’t find yourself thrilled every day by the promise of a new book to read, a new story, a new exciting tale from the world of publishing, a new success for someone, somewhere, who’s walking the same path as you, it’s time to work on building up your love again. (Note: it’s always easier not to lose it in the first place). You should place your love right at the middle of the writerly mixture we’ve been creating so far, because that’s the best place for it.

And you need patience. So much of it. You need patience as you draft, you need patience as you edit, you need patience as you submit and resubmit and resubmit, you need patience as you wait to hear back from agents, you need patience as you systematically cross names off your lists as the rejections pile up, you need patience as you focus on a new project while waiting for your inbox to ‘ping’, and you need patience as you wait for the ‘yes’ that will, with any luck, be yours. But then the need for patience really gets important. You need patience while you’re on submission. You need patience while your book deal is forming. You need patience, endless patience, when dealing with publishing at every level. You need patience, and you need not to confuse hopeful patience with hopeless dejection. Sometimes it can feel like the same thing, but it’s not. So, put your patience on top of everything else, tucking it in well at the edges, and it should serve to keep everything neat and well-contained.

And after all this? Well, you’ve got to pick up that carpetbag and bring it with you all the time. Luckily, it’ll be light and you’ll barely notice you’re carrying it – but it’s important never to forget it, because you never know just when you’re going to need it, and every scrap of what’s inside it. Carrying the bag is not a guarantee of success, of course, but one thing’s for sure: it can’t hurt.

Book Review Saturday – ‘Five Children on the Western Front’

Kate Saunders’ exquisite novel, Five Children on the Western Front, won last year’s Costa Book Award (as well as the Costa Children’s Book Award), and you only have to read the opening chapter to know why.

Image: goodreads.com

Image: goodreads.com

I picked this book up while browsing in a bookshop a few weeks ago, and – as I’m wont – I read the first few pages. Instantly, I was dragged in, just as I was dragged in to Five Children and It, the masterful ‘source’ story by the ‘Ur’-children’s writer, E. Nesbit, first published in 1902. Beginning Saunders’ novel was like picking up a conversation with a dear friend.

I read to the end of the first chapter of Five Children on the Western Front, and by that time I was in tears. Right there in the shop, and everything. I didn’t even care. I knew I had to own this story, and so my love for it began.

The book opens with a scene which is reminiscent of one from Nesbit’s The Story of the Amulet, her last tale featuring the Pemberton siblings (Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and Hilary (or ‘the Lamb’)), wherein the children are whisked forward in time to catch a glimpse of what is to come. I have never read The Story of the Amulet and so I wasn’t aware until afterwards that Saunders had picked up on this detail, but somehow this level of engagement with the world Nesbit created didn’t surprise me. It’s the perfect place to begin this last instalment of the story, as it’s incredibly moving to be faced with the realisation that was so clear to Saunders – and which inspired her to write this story – that the fictional Pemberton children would have been just the ‘right’ age to have been swept up in the cogs of the Great War. This glimpse into the future in Amulet – seen by Nesbit, no doubt, as a glorious end to her sequence of tales – took on a different hue as history unfolded.

Saunders’ version of the Pembertons sees another addition – little Edith, or Edie, born after the Lamb and the new Baby of the family – and the re-emergence of the Psammead, or the Sand Fairy, who got the children into such scrapes when they were young. The Lamb and Edie have grown up on tales of the Psammead and how the ‘Bigguns’ (as they refer to their older siblings) had such wonderful adventures with him, and have always felt left out that they were too young to be included. To everyone’s surprise – not least the Psammead’s himself – the Fairy reappears just as the First World War breaks out, on the day when Cyril is to be deployed to the Front. The family is gathered to send him off, as cheerily as possible, and the Psammead needs a bit of convincing to understand that this fine handsome young man in his officer’s uniform is the same small Cyril he remembers, and this lovely young lady with her hair swept up is his Anthea, now an art student. There must be a reason why the Psammead has reappeared – but nobody knows what it is.

Stranger still, the Psammead’s magic appears to be on the wane. He can’t grant wishes like he used to, and when he does manage to spirit the children into visions and adventures, there’s something slightly odd about them; they’re not the carefree japes of the earlier books. There’s a purpose and a reason behind them all. For the Psammead has his own backstory, which we discover as we read, and the reason behind his reanimation in 1914, at a time of huge upheaval and pain, gradually becomes clear. The Psammead has a debt to pay, and he must learn how to pay it. His charming arrogance, so clear from the older novels, is intact here, and though he’s dearly loved by the children (particularly Edie, who grows firmly attached) there is an undercurrent of nastiness to the things he has done in his long-ago past, and for which he must atone. His struggle is tied up with the struggle of the war, and the lessons he learns are reflected in the realities of life in Europe in 1914-18.

This book is a masterpiece. Kate Saunders has managed at once to retain and build upon E. Nesbit’s voice while creating a new story out of Nesbit’s characters, who are so dear and familiar to anyone who knows and loves the original book and its sequels. It’s a remarkable achievement. The tone, language, setting and ‘feel’ of the book is identical with the original novels (with the exception of being slightly less ‘scattered’ in its plotting; Saunders’ work is definitely more structured than its earlier counterpart) and the characters feel seamless. At the same time Saunders has written a profoundly moving anti-war novel, which brings home the reality of losing loved ones to a distant war machine like nothing else I’ve read. The boys are enlisted; the girls go to fight in their own way, signing up to become volunteer nurses (and, because they’re ‘high-born ladies’, being disparaged for it); the children and the parents are left to worry and grieve. The novel takes in every relevant theme, including social class, the shattering effects of war on society (not just in its human toll but in terms of how it destroyed the fabric of reality, in so many ways), the devastation of loss, the hope of new love, the devotion of family, and the grim truth of life at the front. All of this is done without dwelling on the gory reality; the book is not ‘bloody’ or graphic. But it doesn’t need to be.

I’m not a bit ashamed to say I wept reading this book. It affected me in a very deep way, particularly as it drew to its magnificent close. I lost count of the amount of times the story brought tears to my eyes, but the end was devastating; and yet, devastating in a wonderful way, a way which reminded me of how much beauty there is in the world, and how important love is, and how we must never forget the war – any war, all war – and those who fell in it. During this centenary period it’s particularly important to read books like this one, and particularly important to encourage children to read books like this one, but I know this beautiful, powerful story will be read and loved for generations. It’s a marvel. You need to read it.

I’d still be fast asleep at this moment – if you children hadn’t woken me up all those years ago in 1902.’
‘I say, don’t blame us,’ the Lamb said. ‘We didn’t ask you to pop out of our gravel pit.’
Ernie had been writing rapidly in a notebook. ‘The children might’ve woken you with the power of their imagination. It must be very strong when the kids love stories as much as this lot do.’
‘No, I think it’s simpler than that,’ Jane said thoughtfully. ‘I think you were attracted to us because we were happy and we loved each other. It sounds like a small thing, but I can see now that it’s the biggest thing in the world. That’s why you came back to help us when the war broke us apart.’

(Five Children on the Western Front, p. 225)