Something a bit different and rather lovely today! I suspect many will already be aware of the wonderfully creative Jessie Cahalin and her Books in my Handbag blog, and of the immense support she provides to authors and fellow bloggers. With a little help (actually, rather a lot of help!) from Jessie, I had the great pleasure of travelling back to the seventies to meet Pearl Evans from Jessie Cahalin’s debut novel, You Can’t Go It Alone, now available via Amazon in the UK and US, in paperback and for kindle.
Back in the seventies, Pearl was having a tough time. Although, happily married to Jim, a car mechanic, she felt claustrophobic in the village of Delfryn and wanted a record deal. I knew Pearl couldn’t ‘go it alone’ and needed a shoulder to cry on.
A tangerine campervan arrived outside my house, in Yorkshire, and took me back to the seventies. As the van moved along the road, ‘Pearl’s A Singer’ played on the stereo system. Finally, the van drove past rows and rows of terraced houses and parked outside the Angel Hotel. The Beatles and Shirley Bassey had stayed at the hotel, so I understood Pearl’s choice of meeting place.
She arrived in a short, black and white dress with knee length black boots. I sensed a little nervousness beneath the air of confidence. Despite her slight frame, she had a presence.
Pearl ordered a brandy and Babycham with a slice of lemon and a cherry. I ordered a gin and tonic to keep her company, Pearl placed her large black bag on the floor and beamed at me.
Pearl: Cheers, Anne!
Anne: Hello, Pearl. It’s lovely to meet you here in Cardiff. Having visited Delfryn, the city must feel quite different for you. Jessie’s sent me to give you some moral support.
Pearl: Why can’t Jessie write me a happy ending? I do love the city vibe. It’s good to get away from the countryside. I’m off to see if a friend, Rhys, can get me an audition for a record label. He lives in Tiger Bay so this is a treat before I go to meet him
Anne: I know, Jessie told me you want to be a singer. You look a little worried. Do you want to talk about it?
Pearl: It’s Jim, my husband, he doesn’t trust Rhys. I don’t know what to do. I love Jim, but I need to sing.
Anne: Have you asked Jim what he thinks? He might support you.
Pearl: I think he wants me to stay in Delfryn. It’s so difficult to get Jim to talk. His car repair business earns good money, and I should be grateful. I hate to upset Jim. I’ve thought about going for a music audition many times, but I must be there to make Jim’s tea. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t expect it, but I feel as if I need to look after him. But, I’m bursting to sing and feel trapped.
Anne: Jessie’s told me to give you a little nudge because times are changing. Believe in yourself, pursue your dreams but heed Jim’s warnings. He loves you and might surprise you. Tell him how you feel.
I asked Jessie to let me peek inside Delfryn to see if Pearl heeded my advice.
Jessie: Anne, I am delighted you met with Pearl. Pearl is an absent presence in the novel who influences others. In the seventies her opportunities were different to today’s women. I hope to explore Pearl’s full story in future. Come and look through the window of Rose Cottage and listen to Pearl and Jim’s conversation…
On the morning of the audition, Pearl’s slight frame filled the room as she crashed around the room. ‘You won’t drive me to the audition, so I am going on the bus,’ she hissed. Her eyes shone with determination.
Jim did not glance up from his newspaper. ‘Don’t be stupid,’ he mumbled. The barren winter landscape always made Pearl want to flee, he hoped Pearl would change her mind.
‘I mean it, Jim. Don’t stop me going.’
Jim muttered, ‘I love your singing, but I don’t think these people are genuine. Don’t go. Let’s send demos to other record companies.’ Jim opened his paper again and took a sip of his tea. He wanted Pearl to be happy, but he knew the audition was bad news. If he even looked at her, she would persuade him to go. He had to be strong to protect her from disappointment.
Pearl snatched the newspaper from Jim. ‘Jim, I’m trapped. And I need to sing. I need music. Please come with me to the audition. I can’t ignore an opportunity.’ Her voice faded.
Jim stood up to collect his sandwiches from the kitchen counter and refused to make eye contact with Pearl. ‘Why can’t you be content? We’ve got a good life, the two of us. You can sing anytime you want.’ He glanced at Pearl and swallowed a mouthful of the bacon sandwich which stuck in his throat. After a cough he declared, ‘I’ll ask Maria if you can sing in the café again. Let’s search out proper record companies,’ he soothed. As Jim took his old leather working jacket from the back of the chair, engine oil filled the room.
Pearl removed her pink overall. Beneath the overall she wore a smart black dress, Pearl sighed. ‘You don’t get it. Just go to work.’ She turned her back as she placed the dirty dishes in the sink.
Jim wanted to kiss his wife, instead he opened the front door releasing a chill into the kitchen. The cold wind pushed through the house and rattled the doors. Heading down the path, Jim made his way to his workshop in the village. He wanted Pearl to run after him, to persuade him to take her to Cardiff. He ached to tell her how he loved her, but the words never came. Pearl needed to escape through her singing. Maybe, they should pack up and move to the sunshine, in Spain.
Thank you Jessie… and Pearl. Let me tell everyone just a little more about You Can’t Go It Alone… I’ll be sharing a review as soon as I have the chance to read.
Love, music and secrets are woven together in this poignant, heart-warming narrative.
Set in a Welsh village, the story explores the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations of women. As the characters confront their secrets and fears, they discover truths about themselves and their relationships.
The reader is invited to laugh and cry, with the characters, and find joy in the simple things in life. Listen to the music and enjoy the food, as you peek inside the world of the inhabitants of Delfryn. Let Sophie show you that no one can go it alone.
Who knows, you may find some friends with big hearts…
With big thanks to Jessie, I’m delighted to be able to offer the chance to win a paperback copy of You Can’t Go It Alone (UK only) – and Jessie has very kindly added a few other goodies too (a keyring, a notebook AND a bag!).
Anyone who subscribes by email to the Books in my Handbag blog will receive free entry into the prize draw – here’s a rafflecopter just to confirm your subscription and entry:
Jessie is a bookish blogger, word warrior and intrepid virtual explorer. She loves to entertain with stories, and is never seen without her camera, phone, notebook and handbag. Fellow authors have deemed her ‘creative and quirky’ and she wears these words like a blogging badge of honour.
Having overcome her fear of self-publishing, she is now living the dream of introducing the characters who have been hassling her for decades. Her debut novel, You Can’t Go It Alone, is a heart-warming tale about the challenges women still face in society. The novel has light-hearted moments and presents hope. As C. S. Lewis said, ‘We read to know we are not alone.’
Connecting with authors via her Books in my Handbag Blog is a blast. She showcases authors’ books in the popular Handbag Gallery and has fun meeting authors in her virtual world. Communicating with her authors still gives Jessie a creative buzz.
Jessie Cahalin hails from Yorkshire but lives in Wales with her husband. She loves to travel the world and collects cultural gems like a magpie. She searches for happy endings, where possible, and needs great coffee, food and music to give her inspiration.