Delighted to be joining the blog tour today for What She Left, the latest novel from Rosie Fiore, published in paperback and for kindle by Allen & Unwin in August 2017. This is another book I sadly couldn’t squeeze into my reading list, but I’m seeing some great reviews – Rosie’s definitely an author I plan to add to my “make sure I read her next one” list.
Helen Cooper has a charmed life. She’s beautiful, accomplished, organised – the star parent at the school. Until she disappears.
But Helen wasn’t abducted or murdered. She’s chosen to walk away, abandoning her family, husband Sam, and her home.
Where has Helen gone, and why? What has driven her from her seemingly perfect life? What is she looking for? Sam is tormented by these questions, and gradually begins to lose his grip on work and his family life.
He sees Helen everywhere in the faces of strangers. He’s losing control.
But then one day, it really is Helen’s face he sees…
Doesn’t that look good?! It’s a real pleasure to welcome the author, Rosie Fiore, to Being Anne with an excellent post on writing for multiple voices…
When an author begins writing a book, one of the most important decisions is to choose a narrative voice. Who is telling the story? Through whose eyes will our reader witness events?
Will it be ‘third person’ – that is a dispassionate narrator who sees everything and can hear the thoughts in all the characters’ heads? Will it be ‘first person’, where a character narrates the story, using ‘I’ and ‘me’, and we see everything from their perspective? I’ve used both techniques in various books, to create different effects. But for my most recent publication, What She Left, I chose to use multiple narrative voices.
There are lots of reasons for this. What She Left tells the story of the disappearance of Helen, a stylish, super-competent wife and stepmother. At first, we think a crime has taken place, but soon, we realise she has chosen to leave her home and family. For much of the book, Helen is absent, and I wanted the different voices of other characters to act as witnesses to her disappearance. I wanted the reader to have a sense of her from everyone else’s perspective, and to feel as if she was somehow just out of their reach. I imagined a negative space, Helen-shaped, formed by the thoughts and views of others.
Another reason I chose this multiple perspective is because people’s memories, views and accounts are not always – how can we say – reliable? Two people experiencing the same event will often remember it completely differently. Many years ago, when I was a student in South Africa, I attended a concert. The MC came onstage at the end and said, “We were supposed to have a very special guest here tonight. Paul Simon was here, but he left.” We all booed and threw beer cans, but it turned out he was telling the truth. Paul Simon was in South Africa, recording Graceland at the time. When I recalled this story on Facebook a few years ago, several friends responded.
“I was there,” said one. “I remember Paul Simon coming onstage and playing.”
Another said, “I remember this, but I thought it was Paul McCartney.”
It’s a silly story, but you get the idea. Even though we were all there, we have vastly different memories of that night. There’s something very revealing about hearing different people’s recollections of the same events… it can tell you a lot about a person when you see what they notice, what’s important to them and the conclusions they draw. I had great fun revealing things about different characters with this technique.
In What She Left, our main narrators are Lara, a mum at the school who is the first to realise Helen is missing; Sam, Helen’s husband; and Miranda, Sam’s daughter and Helen’s stepdaughter, who is eight going on nine. They all speak in the first person, giving us a view into their private thoughts. But when Helen finally comes into the story, her story is told in the third person, keeping her once more at a distance, a mystery. However, without spoiling too much, there is a point in the book where Helen gets to tell her own story… but you’ll have to read it to find out what she says!
Thank you Rosie… wishing you every success with What She Left, and I’ll look forward to your next.
About the author
Rosie Fiore was born and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. She studied drama at the University of the Witwatersrand and has worked as a writer for theatre, television, magazines, advertising, comedy and the corporate market. Her first two novels, This Year’s Black and Lame Angel were published by Struik in South Africa. This Year’s Black was longlisted for the South African Sunday Times Literary Award and has subsequently been re-released as an e-book. Babies in Waiting, Wonder Women and Holly at Christmas were published by Quercus. She is the author of After Isabella, also published by Allen & Unwin.
Rosie’s next book, The After Wife (written as Cass Hunter), will be published by Trapeze in 2018, and in translation is seven countries around the world. Rosie lives in London with her husband and two sons.