Follow my blog with Bloglovin With just weeks to go until the publication of my new novel, Indiscretion, I’m delighted to be able to start sharing something of the background and themes of to the book. Today, I’d like to introduce this poem, by Thomas Hardy:
I am the family face;
Flesh perishes, I live on,
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,
And leaping from place to place
The years-heired feature that can
In curve and voice and eye
Despise the human span
Of durance – that is I;
The eternal thing in man,
That heeds no call to die.
This poem acts as a catalyst in the book, inspiring the heroine of the book, Alexandra de Falla. Alexandra was born in Spain, at the family hacienda El Pavon, to a Spanish father and an English mother. But when her mother died, Alexandra moved to England, aged ten, to be brought up by her mother’s sister. Fifteen years later, her long-estranged father comes to her and asks her to return home, to El Pavon in Andalucia, to see her grandmother, the matriarch, whose years are advancing. Alexandra is understandably reticent – she holds plenty of anger toward her Spanish family for their treatment of her mother and for abandoning her all these years to the care of her uptight and dry Aunt Geraldine. But she can’t deny interest in his offer, because Alexandra has always longed to understand her mother and her own heritage, and has never felt entirely at home or complete in England.
After she reads Hardy’s profound words, she considers them for days. ‘Flesh perishes, I live on’ – Alexandra’s mother is gone, but a legacy lives on. What was it that drew her mother to Spain, to El Pavon? And what then drove her away? What may Alexandra learn of her past, and herself, in that place? As I write, ‘The exotic allure of her homeland had always been undeniably potent. Would she discover the missing piece of herself there?’
Ultimately, the call to self-discovery is impossible to resist for an intelligent woman. She will not go to Spain to be a dutiful daughter – to build a relationship with her father, his new wife and her stepsister – or granddaughter to the formidable and controlling Duquesa. Nor will she go because she needs to research the novel she is writing, set in that wild and passionate land, or to spread her wings and explore; to stand as different from her peers, who are settling down and having children. These are good reasons to travel to her homeland, it is true, and she can try to tell herself that they are what drives her. But the truth is that it is her roots that call her home. Her aunt tell hers, ‘Nothing good can come out of this escapade… This constant soul-searching can only lead to tears.’ But Alexandra can only reply, ‘I can’t ignore my Spanish blood any longer. It’s part of my identity.’
Alexandra is following the Delphic maxim ‘Know thyself’, and it is a journey that takes great courage. For it is certain that what she learns at El Pavon about her family and about herself will be transformative, and will shape a very different future to the one she could have chosen had she stayed in England and married her old friend Ashley. The question is: Will Alexandra be able to cope with that change and embrace it fully? Will she be, as is her birthright, Spanish? Or will the customs and culture and political landscape of Spain in the era drive her away, as it did her mother years before? Can Alexandra be the woman she wants to be in Spain, with her family?