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Alexandra: The motherless daughter

Alexandra: The motherless daughter

Alexandra: The motherless daughter

Every hero and heroine in fiction needs a compelling motive for the journey they are taking. For Alexandra in my novel Indiscretion, that motive is a strong need to understand her roots and, in doing so, herself.

For Alexandra, roots are complicated. Her father, Alonso, is Spanish born and bred. Her mother, Vanessa, however was an Englishwoman who had tried to assimilate into Spanish culture for the man she loved. Tried, but failed – because the de Falla family would not accept her into the fold. And so, ultimately, she had met a flamboyant French artist and run off with him in the hope of a brighter future – only to be killed in a car accident, leaving Alexandra motherless at the tender age of six. Her aunt told Alexandra:

‘You mustn’t hold it against her. I know she would’ve come back for you when she was settled, but things were difficult for her. Your mother suffered tremendously, you know. She didn’t belong to the same world as Alonso:  she was neither Spanish nor a born Catholic. It was almost impossible for the de Falla family to accept such a marriage. In those days the rules of the Catholic Church were even more rigid. Even if your mother had not left, your parents would have eventually parted. Their marriage was doomed from the start.’

Indiscretion is Alexandra’s story, not Vanessa’s, so it is outside the reach of the book to explore the mother’s love stories. But what is clear that Vanessa’s failed relationship with Alonso and her subsequent death have left theirmark on Alexandra.

Is it any wonder that Alexandra grew up to be a romance novelist? When her mother left Alexandra to run off with her lover, her imagination was her escape. She buried herself in stories of beautiful princesses going on great adventures and falling in love with handsome princes, and lost children reunited with their mothers and fathers, stories in which everyone lived happily ever after.

Butdespite her escapes into fantasy in her work as a writer, there exists a shakiness in Alexandra: a lack of solidity in her identity. She cannot remember her mother, and all she has of her is some black-and-white photographs and the recollections of her Aunt Geraldine, whose stories are coloured by her straight-laced, judgmental nature and her anger against the de Fallas. When a daughter does not know her mother, she is left unanchored, drifting. I write:

Sometimes Alexandra felt like she was waiting for something to happen – anything to happen. Somewhere inside she could taste it, the immense potential of her passions and dreams. Where did this feeling come from, that she didn’t quite belong? Was this burning desire to know more of the world something she had inherited from her mother? But that was a question, like so many others, she would never be able to ask her.

If you cannot know a person through being with them, the closest substitute is to walk in their shoes. That is a big impetus for Alexandra in her decision to go to Andalusia and get to know the de Falla family: she ‘follows her mother’s footsteps into the dream of another life, not knowing where it would lead her’.

It takes a great deal of courage for Alexandra to take her mother’s path, but it is testament to her spirit that she remains independent. All those who would try to fill her mother’s shoes ­– her overbearing aunt, her domineering grandmother, her duplicitous stepmother – will not sway Alexandra.

In many ways, Alexandra’s journey is about ceasing to be a person she defines as a motherless daughter, and becoming instead her own woman. Her mother’s choices and mistakes cannot define Alexandra. She is not her mother, and her path need not take the same painful turns. Ultimately, it is for Alexandra to decide what Vanessa’s legacy to her will be. As was her mother before her, Alexandra is ‘the master of her fate, the captain of her soul’.

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