Beach bouquet

Brighton beach
Brighton beach

 Waves roar throughout the night. They gouge the beach and sort the pebbles of equal size into rows. But occasionally a  bouquet is laid gently down.

Inscrutable objects

Second Barbie
First lost Barbie
First lost Barbie
Second lost Barbie

The sea is calm and the combers are out on the beach, stirring the pebbles with sticks and prodding the shiny piles of seaweed, until they find what they are looking for.

Prairie Books Now-‘Sowing the Seeds’

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8 Prairie books NOW winter 2014

SOWING THE SEEDS

Landscape architect pens second novel.

By Bev Sandell Greenberg.

For a landscape architect to become a novelist may seem like a giant leap but not for author Rosie Chard.

“The move from landscape architecture, creating something via a drawing, to writing, creating something via words, has been a fascinating one for me,” says Chard.

“I’ve spent my life as a landscape designer, visualizing something that isn’t there, and there are many similarities with the writing process. Garden design involves thinking about colour, scale, rhythm, movement, tension, juxtaposition, contrast and time scales, all of which I think about during the writing of a novel.”

Inspiration for her second novel, The Insistent Garden, came from two main sources. “The starting point was the broad idea of a wall,” says Chard. “My initial research focused on large scale borders that are erected between entire countries, such as the US/Mexico border fence and the Berlin wall. I was interested in how animosity and even hate were perpetuated on each side between people who had never met each other.”

She was also inspired by two English gardens, Rousham, an 18th century landscape garden in Oxfordshire and Snowshill, a 20th century garden in Gloucestershire. Dotty Hands, one of Chard’s characters was named after a scullery maid who worked at Snowshill Manor over 200 years ago.

Set in the East Midlands in 1969, The Insistent Garden centres around  Edith Stoker, an 18-year-old woman living a circumscribed existence with her widowed father, Wilf. To make matters worse, Wilf’s sister, Vivian, visits every few weeks, barking orders at Edith and treating her like a servant. Wilf’s main pastime is building a wall high enough to block out the view of his next-door neighbour’s house because of a long-standing feud. Enter Dotty Hands, an older woman who befriends Edith. Together they visit Snowshill after which Edith decides to plant her own garden – an experience that changes her life.

“Edith’s garden represents the notion of locus amoenus – an idealized place of safety and comfort,” says the author.

“But her garden isn’t passive, it is insistent. It slips seeds into the back of shoes, it finds its way into the house as Edith carries a rose to the kitchen table, but most importantly it creeps into Edith’s psyche and gives her the confidence to question her circumstances for the first time in her life.”

Chard grew up and worked in England, then left for Copenhagen in 2000. In 2005, she moved to Winnipeg and published her first novel, Seal Intestine Raincoat, a story about climate change. The book garnered a 2010 Alberta book award and received four nominations for other Canadian literary awards.

Chard feels that her target audience is broad. “Garden lovers will hopefully like it, mystery lovers too. But most importantly I hope the book will appeal to readers who want something that is different to what they expect.”

Beached

Brighton beach. Photograph by Phoebe Chard.

 

 

After each storm the beach is littered with artefacts of mysterious origin. So much happens beneath the waves that we can only imagine, then suddenly objects are thrown up and left stranded on the pebbles, quietly drying, waiting to be pulled back under.

Feet on the radiator

The beach at Dungerness
The beach at Dungerness

“Novelists are rather like physicists. They sit around with their feet on the radiator staring out of the window with a notepad within reach.

They must be in that world of misty, drifting creative thinking that has a bit of talent, a bit of luck, a bit of being shaped by current mood that can bring sudden insight. To wonder how to progress or even start a novel is to enter a state of what V.S. Pritchett called determined stupor.” Ian McEwan.

Dungerness, an enigmatic, beautiful  and eerie place in south east England,  the setting for my new novel in progress, The Eavesdroppers.

Curling and shrinking

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Beech clumps, beech nuts and beech roots. Oxfordshire.

‘The time of objects floating down from above began. Fall, they called it in America.  Autumn arrived slowly in Billingsford. Leaves coloured up like chameleons, red chasing green, chasing yellow, before collapsing into brown. The eerie sense of curling and shrinking grew stronger as the last drops of moisture were squeezed from exhausted veins and dead leaves clung to the trees, each hanging by a thread until that first wet weekend in November when rain slathered mud onto the pavement and autumn was suddenly winter.’

The Insistent Garden.

The Inner Life of Objects

Little Otik in a glass case.
Little Otik in a glass case.

The tree root from Jan Svankmejer’s sublime and terrifying film ‘Little Otik.’

Many artefacts that were used in Jan Svankmajer’s films  are currently on show at the University of Brighton, England.––The Inner Life of Objects.