Since starting my blog – over four years ago now – one of the joys has been getting to know some lovely authors. Many have never asked me to do anything for them, commenting on posts and just supporting the blog: Dianne Noble has long been one of that number. But when I saw that Dianne had a book coming out in June of this year, I took a closer look – and Oppression (published by Tirgearr, and with its very striking cover) rather captured my imagination.
When she tries preventing the abduction and forced marriage of 16-year-old Layla, Beth defies her controlling husband, Duncan, and travels to Cairo where she finds the girl now lives in the vast necropolis known as The City of the Dead. She’s hiding from her abusive husband, and incites fellow Muslim women to rebel against the oppression under which they live. Beth identifies with this and begins helping her.
Cairo is in a state of political unrest, and Beth gets caught up in one of the many protests. She’s rescued by Harry, who splits his working life between Egypt and England, and they eventually fall in love. When Harry returns home and Layla vanishes, Beth begins being stalked and threatened with violence. And then Duncan turns up…
Can Beth ever find peace, or will her hopes of happiness remain shattered? Will Layla’s ideals of freedom ever be fulfilled?
I’m very much looking forward to reading and reviewing Oppression later this year, but until then I’m delighted to introduce you to author Dianne Noble.
I was born into a service family and brought up in Singapore in the 1950s, before it gained its independence, then Cyprus when the Turkish Navy sailed to the island for the first time to protect the interests of the Turkish Cypriots and we had to travel everywhere in a military convoy. I went on to marry a Civil Engineer and moved to the Arabian Gulf in the 1970s at the time of the construction boom. A hedonistic lifestyle with too much alcohol and partying which saw the demise of my, and many others’, marriages.
Since then, with sons grown and flown, I have continued to wander all over the world, keeping extensive journals of my experiences. Fifteen different schools and an employment history which includes The British Embassy Bahrain, radio presenter, café proprietor on Penzance seafront, and a goods picker in an Argos warehouse (complete with steel toe-capped boots) have resulted in rich seams to mine for inspiration.
I’ve always written, from editing the school magazine to short stories and letters to magazines, but it was only on retirement that I had the time for a novel. My writing is atmospheric, steeped in the smells, sights and sounds of exotic locations. I live – when not travelling – in a small, Leicestershire village. My favourite destinations – so far – have been India, Egypt and Russia, with Guatemala a close third.
And Dianne had more to share about her love for Egypt:
The first time I saw Egypt I was seven years old and sitting on the deck of the troopship Dunera with my head buried in Enid Blyton’s Ring-o-Bells Mystery. I looked up when we docked in Port Said to see the gully gully man. He was an Egyptian magician who fascinated everyone, young and old alike, and accentuated the other world atmosphere of this exotic country. As we sailed down the Suez Canal – much narrower than expected – Lawrence of Arabia figures seated on camels appeared on the desert banks. I can truly say Egypt was the first place interesting enough to get my head out of a book.
Three years later, in December, the Canal had been closed and we flew back from Singapore in an RAF Hermes plane. The journey took almost three days, stopping in several countries to re-fuel and de-ice the wings. This time there were no hot and vibrant sights and I didn’t see Egypt again until I reached my early forties, when I travelled by train from Cairo to Aswan, glued to the windows as we passed by villages which looked like they’d come straight from the pages of the Bible. My lifelong love affair with Egypt had begun and I’ve been back many times.
Ten years ago I volunteered to spend a winter teaching English to street children in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, in India. While there I realised what it is I love about the country –it’s the people. Despite great deprivation they laugh and are joyful. This time in Kolkata proved to be the hardest thing I have ever done. Broken, crumbling buildings sit amid lakes of raw sewage; filthy children encrusted with sores are homeless; families live on a patch of pavement so narrow they take it in turns to lie down. They give birth – and die – there. Yet their indomitable spirit shines through.
I feared I couldn’t do it, felt my resolve dying daily amid the horrors and hardship, but I started writing a journal and it saved me. Every night, no matter how dirty and exhausted I felt, I recorded one child’s progress with the alphabet, another’s disappearance, how many times I’d been hugged. It was a form of de-briefing but also cathartic. It got me through and these diaries formed the basis for A Hundred Hands and Outcast.
An author I’m going to enjoy discovering, I feel. Delighted to meet you properly at last, Dianne. Let’s take a closer look at those two earlier books.
When Polly’s husband is jailed for paedophilia, she flees the village where her grandmother raised her and travels to India where she stays with her friend, Amanda.
Polly is appalled by the poverty, and what her husband had done, and her guilt drives her to help the street children of Kolkata. It’s while working she meets other volunteers, Liam and Finlay. Her days are divided between teaching the children and helping with their health needs. But when Liam’s successor refuses to let Polly continue working, she’s devastated to think the children will feel she’s abandoned them.
After a health scare of her own, she discovers her friend, Amanda, is pregnant. Amanda leaves India to have her child. At this time Polly and Finlay fall in love and work together helping the children. Tragedy strikes when one child is found beaten and another dead. Polly feels history repeating itself when Finlay becomes emotionally attached to a young girl.
Can Polly recover from her broken heart and continue to help the children, or will she give up and return home?
Rose leaves her Cornwall café to search for her daughter in the sweltering slums of Kolkata, India.
In the daily struggle for survival, she is often brought to her knees, but finds strength to overcome the poverty and disease, grows to love the Dalit community she helps. But then there are deaths, and she fears for her own safety.
Her café at home is at risk of being torched, and finally, she has to make the terrible choice between her daughter and the Indian children.