I’m delighted today to welcome Christine Webber as my guest: her latest novel, So Many Ways of Loving, was published on 17th June, and is now available both as an ebook and in paperback.
When I read Christine’s last book, It’s Who We Are, I couldn’t hide my delight at finding an author who writes the kind of books I love to read. Initially excited by the promise of “five friends in their fifties”, I was equally drawn by the book’s themes of friendship, kindness and identity: and it was a book filled with love and warmth, joyful and up-lifting as the characters discovered those things that give their lives real meaning (you can read my full review again here). There was never any doubt that I’d include it in my 2018 Books of the Year list. Through the dark days of lockdown, I’ve really enjoyed following Christine’s video podcasts – but when she let me know she had another book on the way, I could see it was one I just had to find a place for in my reading list. My thanks to Christine for sending me an e-copy – I’m really looking forward to this one, and I hope to share my review in July.
Let’s take a closer look…
‘A poignant and insightful tale of widowhood and other challenges of later life which really resonated with my clinical experience.’ Dr Max Pemberton – Psychiatrist and Daily Mail columnist
So Many Ways of Loving is set in 2019 before the world was shocked to the core by the pandemic. And it is another story by Webber featuring people in their mid to later years.
‘This is such an astonishing part of our lives,’ says Christine. ‘And packed with unforeseen changes.’
But unlike the storylines of Who’d Have Thought It? and It’s Who We Are some of the changes in this tale are bleak and heartbreaking. However, life is full of light just when we think there is only darkness and there are many unexpected developments concerning love, location, friendship, family and, as you might guess from the cover, a dog.
Ultimately, So Many Ways of Loving is a story of hope, celebrating our zest for life. It features three main female characters in their 50s and 60s. They are all, in their own way, facing crises, and the unlikely friendship that evolves between them is sustaining for them all. Acting as a kind of link between these friends is a fourth female character who is a great support to them. Readers may spot that she has been borrowed – though is now very much older than she was – from one of the author’s other novels.
So no review today, but it’s a real pleasure to welcome Christine with a particularly appropriate guest post…
I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Anne Williams for inviting me to contribute a guest post to Being Anne… Anne has always supported my fiction writing and I am enormously grateful to her.
When we were discussing what I should write, we got onto the subject of single life as one grows older, and I remembered a segment in So Many Ways of Loving which has really stayed with me, and which may resonate with you.
I’d like you to imagine that you leave your home in a hurry one day, fully expecting to return to it within hours. Instead, you end up in hospital.
Perhaps an over-exuberant cyclist rounds a corner at speed just as you step off the pavement, and you’re knocked down and seriously injured. Maybe you’re shopping in the supermarket and you slip on some ice cream that a child has just dropped, and break your hip. Possibly, you’re at work and you suddenly feel vague and weak and trembly. You don’t want a fuss and keep reassuring your colleagues that you’re fine. But before you know it, someone has insisted on calling an ambulance and now you’re in a hospital bed hooked up to various monitors and feeling totally bewildered that you might be ill when you’re someone who rarely even gets a cold.
All these particular incidents happened to friends of mine, so I know they’re true.
Now, we don’t tend to go around expecting dramas of this kind, so if they occur, they’re a huge shock. But after the shock wears off a little, we usually feel relieved and lucky that we’re getting help, and that things could have been much worse. However, it’s not long before that positivity is replaced by a range of more negative emotions as we realise we need someone to go into our home for us to make sure everything is OK, and also to bring us some items that we’re really going to need. And this generates a stream of anxieties as we begin to consider what sort of state we left the house in.
Now, some people are super-organised and everything is always clean and tidy. At the other end of the scale, we probably all know someone who is absolutely delightful but whose house is overstuffed and messy, who never tidies up before you visit and doesn’t seem to care that his or her place is a complete tip. Most of us though fall somewhere in the middle.
So, as we lie there, nursing our new status, we remember, with embarrassment, that we never got round to washing last night’s dishes.
That’s just the start. Suddenly, we visualise our toothbrush, which is somewhat past its sell-by date. We wonder if we have any clean pyjamas that might pass muster, and where they might be. And what about our underwear drawers? Haven’t we always promised ourselves that we would fold our brassieres round subtly scented organic sachets and put them in some sort of colour-co-ordinated order? Have we done that yet? No. They’re just thrown in any old how and tangled up with knickers that have seen better days. To be fair, since we’ve been alone, there’s been no one to buy new lingerie for.
The bed may not be made either. And heaven forbid that anyone should open the cupboard under the stairs because if they do, the ironing board will almost certainly fall out and bang them on the shins.
Are any of us ready for such a situation where suddenly we’re poorly and dependent on someone else to help us out by sorting out things at home and bringing us the items that are going to make our hospital stay less of an ordeal?
I know I’m not. Neither was one of my characters in So Many Ways of Loving. Few of us think forward to the possibility of such a day, so when it happens it must feel undignified and miserable and as if life will never be the same again.
Of course, people love us, and are kind. Probably then, when the time comes, it won’t be as bad as we anticipate. But writing about this certainly changed me. Now, I always wash the dishes and make the bed before I go out. And last week, I tidied my underwear drawers. It’s a start!
Thank you so much for that one, Christine – it certainly gave me food for thought. Washing up and making the bed have already become part of my routine – the underwear drawers are my “must do” for the next rainy day!
About the author
Christine Webber tried various careers in her younger days – she was a classical singer, a Principal Boy in pantomimes, an undistinguished actress as well as a piano and singing teacher. Fortunately, for her, when she was thirty, she managed to get a job in television as a continuity announcer, and shortly thereafter she became a news presenter at Anglia TV. Finally, she had found an occupation she liked that other people thought she was good at. This was a massive relief.
In her early forties, she married the love of her life, Dr David Delvin. Soon afterwards, she decided to leave news presenting in order to train as a psychotherapist, and she also became a problem page columnist for various publications including TV Times, Best, BBC Parenting, The Scotsman and Woman. In addition, she regularly broadcast relationship advice on Trisha, The Good Sex Guide…Late and from the BBC’s Breakfast sofa.
In her fifties, she and her husband set up a practice in Harley Street, and they worked together there and collaborated on several books. They also wrote the sex/relationships content on www.netdoctor.co.uk and penned a joint column for the health section of The Spectator.
Over the decades, Christine was commissioned to write ten self-help books including Get the Happiness Habit, How to Mend a Broken Heart and Too Young to Get Old.
Now, in her seventies, her focus is on the issues of mid and later life. As well as writing novels, she makes video podcasts on positive ageing and writes a column for various regional papers on that theme. She is also a life coach specialising in health and ageing.