It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for The Magic Carpet by Jessica Norrie, independently published in July 2019, and available for kindle and in paperback. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation and support.
I think I should start with a little apology. I bought a copy of Jessica’s first book, The Infinity Pool, when it was published in 2015: everything told me I’d love it, but it sadly disappeared into the depths of my kindle. I promise that I won’t let that happen with this one: although I couldn’t read it in time for the tour, I’ve purchased my e-copy and it’s on my reading list for November. And I’m looking forward to it very much. Let’s take a closer look…
Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?
I really enjoy reading Jessica’s regular posts on her own blog – you’ll find it here – so I’m particularly delighted to share a guest post from her today. And it’s a story about stories…
Once upon a time, an author had written a story which did quite well, and thought she ought to write another.
She tried writing a sequel to the first – it quickly hit a wall.
She tried writing a story based on childhood memories – but would it mean anything to anyone else?
She tried writing a police procedural – but she lost the plot.
“Write about what you know,” her fairy godmother said, and the author scowled because she didn’t want to. “It’s also what everyone else knows,” cajoled Glorinda or whatever her name was. “We’ve all been to school, and we can all relate to fairy stories.”
A school story! But this wouldn’t take place at Malory Towers, Dotheboys Hall or Hogwarts. It would begin in a modern London primary school, where the pupils were dying to tell their own stories but were submerged under so many tests and spellings, sums and grammar exercises that their parents had forgotten how to help them – until one wise old teacher set everyone a storytelling task before it was too late and their imaginative, collaborative skills were lost forever.
Gradually some pupils stepped forward to audition for the main parts. There was beautiful, rather vain Alka with a fascination for Rapunzel trapped in her tower, and her friend Nathan, an earnest little boy whose estate agent father took entirely the wrong meaning from the story of the Midas touch. Sky was a dramatic child who couldn’t read a story without acting out all the parts in it even if they were animals, and Mandeep didn’t see much point in reading or writing but could always be bribed up the beanstalk with biscuits and sweets by his adoring grandmother. Then there was mysterious Xoriyo, a newcomer to the city, who refused to speak at all until she could tell her story on her own terms.
These children were only seven years old, so they had to be chaperoned through the book by their parents, who turned out to be carrying all sorts of baggage. One story risked being lost in a tangle of misgivings; one needed someone to translate; one was endangered by violence and neglect, another by depression and one shone through so jeweled and wonderful that the teller wanted to keep it to herself.
The parents and children all lived in the same street but for one reason or another they didn’t yet know each other, so they couldn’t help each other. Their ideas just wouldn’t cross-fertilise. Then some of them ran into each other in the park; some met in the playground; one parent rescued another from danger. They began to chat, to cook for each other, to play football together and share celebrations and it began to look as though the great school storytelling festival might just be all right on the night, after all.
The end came. It would spoil the book to tell you here whether it was happy or a sad one, whether the children’s stories had all been told and whether any of it did any good. The author put down her pen (a pen is more picturesque than a computer keyboard so please imagine a magnificent quill) with a sigh of relief. She had proved she wasn’t just a one book wonder!
Meanwhile, in the four years she had spent writing, editing, trying to get published and finally doing so, the children had grown up and gone to secondary school! The parents met for nostalgic coffees and swapped reports of their near teenagers, Sky taller than her mum already, Nathan beating his father at chess, all hopefully on the path to living happily ever after. “I wonder what that author’s doing now,” Sky’s mum said, “you remember, the one who helped us find a voice.”
But that, dear reader, is another story.
©Jessica Norrie 2019
Jessica, thank you, that was wonderful! I wish you every possible success with the book – and I’ll see you again in November.
About the author
Jessica Norrie was born in London and studied French Literature and Education at Sussex and Sheffield. She taught English, French and Spanish abroad and in the UK in settings ranging from nursery to university. She has two adult children and divides her time between London and Malvern, Worcestershire.
She has also worked as a freelance translator, published occasional journalism and a French textbook, and blogs at https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com
Jessica sings soprano with any choir that will have her, and has been trying to master the piano since childhood but it’s not her forte.
She left teaching in 2016. The Infinity Pool was her first novel, drawing on encounters while travelling. Her second novel The Magic Carpet is inspired by working with families and their children. The third is bubbling away nicely and should emerge from her cauldron next year.