It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Being Netta Wilde by Hazel Ward: published by Hope Street Press on 20th June, it’s now available for kindle (free through Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support.
As a blogger it’s really wonderful to be invited to read and review so many lovely books, but it’s often a little bit frustrating too. I really liked the look of this one as soon as I saw it – “An uplifting story of love, loss and second chances that celebrates friendship and human connections” immediately attracted my attention. But sadly, June’s been a particularly heavy month, and no matter how much I really wanted to fit in the reading, I just couldn’t manage it. Just take a look, you’ll see why it appealed to me so much – it might just appeal to you too…
Netta Wilde was all the things Annette Grey isn’t. Netta Wilde was raw, unchecked and just a little bit rebellious. She loved The Clash and she loved being Netta Wilde.
Annette Grey is an empty, broken woman who hardly knows her own children. Of course, it’s her own fault. She’s a bad mother. An unnatural mother. At least, that’s what her ex-husband tells her.
The one thing she is good at …
the one thing that stops her from falling …
is her job.
When the unthinkable happens, Annette makes a decision that sets her on a journey of self-discovery and reinvention. Along the way, her life is filled with friends, family, dogs, and jam. Lots of jam.
Suddenly anything seems possible. Even being Netta Wilde again.
But, is she brave enough to take that final step when the secrets she keeps locked inside are never too far away?
So, no review today – but I’m delighted to welcome author Hazel Ward as my guest, to tell us more about Annette Grey, her less than perfect character…
In the real world, no one is perfect. Not even those who purport to have the perfect life, posting endless photos of themselves on social media of them leading their #bestlives.
Most of us don’t buy into that, do we? We all know that it’s really just smoke and mirrors. We all know that there’s usually more than one side to a story and more often than not, nothing is as it seems. It’s a shame really that, for one reason or another, some people feel the need to pretend that they’re not the same as us. I’m sure they’d be a lot happier if they just accepted that they’re as messy, flawed and flaky as the rest of the human race.
I have to be honest, I’ve always found the idea of perfection rather boring. Slightly wonky people are always far more interesting. Far more captivating. For me, there’s a particular joy in finding a flawed character in stories. Especially when the story is told from their point of view. You never know what you’re going to get and when you get it, you’re not quite sure if it’s true.
Annette Grey, the main character in Being Netta Wilde, is flawed. She’s lonely and bitter. Sometimes, being on your own against the world can do that to you. She’s also selective with her memory. She misremembers some things. Occasionally, she just forgets them altogether. How do we know this? Because she gradually comes to realise that the spin she’s put on past events in her life might not actually be the way they happened. Sometimes, the other characters give her clues and sometimes she works it out for herself. There are occasions when she has been genuinely wronged, but even then, she can’t help wondering if she is, in part, responsible for what’s happened to her.
Like most of us, Annette is a complex character. When we meet her, she’s fifty years old and already it feels like her life’s over. She’s so buttoned up she sometimes finds it hard to breathe. She loathes her ex-husband, avoids her parents and has, on occasion, even hated her own children. Most of all she hates herself. As she goes through her journey to redemption, things happen that make her revisit her past and re-examine defining moments in her life.
Throughout her story Annette is constantly brought down by the belief that she’s a bad and unnatural mother. She hints at this from the very first paragraph in the novel:
‘It was her birthday. Fifty today. It should have been a good day. Liza and Will were staying for the weekend. The first time in ages. She would finish early, make a nice dinner and try to connect with them like normal mothers did.’
There are reasons why Annette holds that belief and they become clearer as the story unfolds but on a more general note, she isn’t alone in feeling she doesn’t make the grade as a mother. It’s actually quite common. If it was a job in the workplace, it would be called imposter syndrome but being a mother isn’t classified as a job and there’s very little real help out there for women who are too ashamed to admit they feel inadequate. Although there’s a lot of pressure to be that ever-happy, loving, proud and perfect mum. That pressure has been around for a long time but from what I hear, these days, it’s worse. Do fathers feel it too? I’m not sure but would like to know.
And what of Annette’s other character traits? Before she met Colin Grey, she was brash, confident and fun loving Netta Wilde. Still flawed but in a young and reckless way. Thirty years later, when Colin has finished with her, she’s a bundle of conflicts and neuroses who despises her own middle-class sensibilities, is terrified of offending people and yet, can be quite unpleasant to those she dislikes. What did actually happen to make her that way? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
But don’t be thinking that there’s little to like about Annette. She’s also a little bit off-kilter in a quiet, funny sort of way. What’s more, she’s kind, generous and ready to embark on a life-changing journey that she’d be only too happy to share with you. To be honest, she needs all the friends she can get.
Thank you Hazel – and now I want to read it all the more, and do hope I can manage to catch up later. Wishing you every possible success…
About the author
Hazel Ward was born in a back-to-back house in inner city Birmingham. By the time the council knocked the house flat and packed her family off to the suburbs, she was already something of a feral child who loved adventures. Swapping derelict houses and bomb pecks for green fields and gardens was a bit of a culture shock but she rose to the occasion admirably and grew up loving outdoor spaces and animals. Especially dogs, cats and horses.
Strangely, for someone who couldn’t sit still, she also developed a ferocious reading habit and a love of words. She wrote her first novel at fifteen, along with a lot of angsty poems, and was absolutely sure she wanted to be a writer. Sadly, it all came crashing down when her seventeen-year-old self walked out of school after a spot of bother and was either too stubborn or too embarrassed to go back. It’s too long ago to remember which. What followed was a series of mind-numbingly dull jobs that paid the bills but did little to quell the restlessness inside.
Always a bit of a smart-arse, she eventually managed to talk herself into a successful corporate career that lasted over twenty years until, with the bills paid and the children grown up, she was able to wave it all goodbye and do the thing she’d always wanted to do. While taking a fiction writing course she wrote a short story about a lonely woman who was being made redundant. The story eventually became her debut novel Being Netta Wilde.
Hazel still lives in Birmingham and that’s where she does most of her writing. When she’s not there, she and her partner can be found in their holiday home in Shropshire or gadding about the country in an old motorhome. Not quite feral anymore but still up for adventures.