Helen Walsh, Gaynor Arnold and Paul Wilson
the Everyman Bistro
12th May 2011
They bring to the forefront the various rigours of 'providing care',
whether in a personal sense, ie a mother's care for a new- born child;
or by working for the professional agencies.
All three writers read one chapter or story* before questions were invited
from the audience.
Helen Walsh (a local writer) wrote 'Go to Sleep' (her third novel) about
the effects of sleep deprivation, part of post-natal depression, after
she suffered from this debilitating disorder after her first baby was
born. But not wishing to make the novel sound autobiographical she wrote
about a single working-class woman on her own, without any kind of support
network having to find depths of patience in order not to react abusively
to the manipulative screams/wails of a baby to be nursed at a time when
she needs precious sleep.
I found the above reading on the tedious side and was unable to really
engage with the subject.
Gaynor Arnold's previous novel was 'Girl in A Blue Dress' which was longlisted
for The Man Booker Prize 2008. That was a historical drama based on the
life and marriage of a famous writer's wife Dorothea Gibson aka Catherine
Dickens. I read the above and could not put it down. Her latest offering
is a collection of short stories* of which she read one 'Salad Days' in
which a childless married couple live a dysfunctional existence. They
have lost connection with each other. Gaynor Arnold has recently retired
from working at Birmingham's Adoption and Fostering Services so probably
experienced visiting similar house- holds. The male protagonist has a
boring '9 to 5' job in a Benefits Agency, where he met his wife - he comes
over as disparaging about her 'bleeding heart' towards her clients when
she worked there. The author said that she 'found it easier to communicate
from the male character's standpoint' which is opposite to her last book.
She has previously guested at the Bluecoat Chapter & Verse Festival in 2009.
Paul Wilson's A Visiting Angel seems an unusual genre for a male writer,
but his reading style attracted me to the characters. One of the men in
the audience commented that 'it reminded him of the film [sic] A Wonderful
Life' which Paul Wilson agreed was similar. His voice was most sympathetic
to 'Saul', the main character who was 'an angel with an errand to perform'
this is taken by the female social worker he is seeing as a symptom of
a personality disorder, but when he gets an uncanny result after asking
her to look through some rubbish in a drawer and fix her ming on a specific
item which neither of them know about - she has an idea that a psychic
event is being played out. The link is bereavement, the loss of a child
in this case, through a photograph. I enjoyed this best out of the three