Is there a new genre, the novel in which the middle-aged creative woman flees to a remote place to escape loss and finds herself, true love, redemption or some such. It’s probably a sub-genre. Whatever label we use here are three I have read. Two sent by my sister, which is kind of her. Perhaps she is concerned that I am a creative type, who has fled from all kinds of loss to a remote place. ‘Fled’ is not right and Devon is not that remote. I am not escaping loss, a broken heart or anything much at all, but I like the idea of the restorative power of the natural world.
- Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard (2005)
Rose is suffering following the end of a very serious relationship with a climber, and suffers with intense depression. She is also a textiles artist. She seeks refuge from these demons on Uist (oh beautiful Outer Hebrides) and finds lovely neighbours and a damaged but highly desirable young man, also a climber, who challenges her withdrawal and eventually wins her over. It’s told from Rose’s point of view but also steps back to an authorial voice at times. I enjoyed the descriptions of Uist, which evoked the pleasures of the island as I experienced them.
- Call of the Undertow by Linda Cracknell (2013)
Another story of a woman fleeing loss to work on her own in a lonely spot – this yime on the remote north eastern coast of Scotland. She experiences a gradual introduction to the community and reconnection with the world through nature. The sea birds are vivid in this novel.
In this story a boy Trothan is called by the undertow of the title. He is a gifted child, with powers of observation and map skills as well as a keen appreciation of the local folk ales. Maggie, a cartographer herself, encourages him as she works on her atlas of Nigeria. The boy is a keen observer of what goes on in the village but misjudges the community when he reveals the nefarious activities of his neighbours. He goes missing and one is led to believe he chose to join the seals in the sea. Maggie doesn’t find love, but she does find friendship and a place to feel at home, away from her past.
- Still Life with Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen (2014)
Rebecca Winter, a photographer, is 60 and broke. He career has declined, her husband left her some time ago having destroyed her confidence, her mother was always a selfish woman. Rebecca moves to a cabin in upstate New York in an attempt to make ends meet and to consider her future. Of course life decides what this will be for her as she is adopted by the local tea shop owner, the roofer and a stray dog. She finds her way.
This is the familiar story of a sophisticated woman finding love with a younger and virile man. They rescue each other; he rescues her from the dissociation from life and she comforts him for life’s pains, including the death of a psychotic sister. It’s cleanly told, with nice strong characters and a story that rattles along.
Do you know any novels that take up the themes of these three?
A late addition, thanks to Deborah Smith on twitter.
The best of them all and not romantic fiction but a bleak story of a woman’s life falling apart, despite seeking escape in remote Wales. Very absorbing, interesting style and shortlisted for IMPAC prize. (See also The Twin by the same author, different themes.)
There’s something about those celtic remotenesses!
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