Under Pressure

Helen Walsh, Gaynor Arnold and Paul Wilson
Writing on the Wall at the Everyman Bistro
12th May 2011

Reviewed by Bandana Rossa

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 works.

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