One of the most painful aspects of mental distress and disorder can be the inability of other people to acknowledge the lived experience, the need to cover up for their sake an additional strain on an already fragile psyche. So no wonder Grace is relieved when her husband, Gordon, leaves her alone on their narrow-boat home to go on a fishing trip with a friend. A couple of days earlier Grace saw what she took to be the ghost of her deceased first husband, Pete, her deepest and most disturbing love. Gordon, fearing a repeat of the breakdown that had her hospitalised following the death of her teenage daughter, Hannah, wants her to go to the doctor. Grace herself just wants time to revisit the memories of the handsome man who used to beat her, and the daughter who withdrew into the solace of illegal highs.
Have you ever daydreamed about just packing up and sodding off somewhere? Not telling anyone where you’re going? Escaping your life. Starting again. That’s how I feel. Like being someone else for a change. (p173)
Despite a couple of niggles – I was surprised at the use of a straitjacket in a psychiatric hospital in the 1980s – I found in this novel a convincing and poignant account of the reason underlying madness, as well as inspiring portrait of an older woman reclaiming her life. This is my first review for Myriad Editions and, if Ghosting is typical of their output, I look forward to doing many more. Thanks to them for my copy.
I so love the notion of that later-life coming-of-age. And what do you know, it happens to chime perfectly with the latest flash fiction challenge from Charli Mills, to write a 99-word renewal story that proclaims, “This isn’t the end; I will go on.” Mired right now in the struggle to capture the essence of my forthcoming novel, Sugar and Snails, in an enticing 150-word blurb, I thought first of my character, Diana, as she adds the lemons life serves her to a refreshing gin and tonic. But although hers is undoubtedly the story of a woman rising from the ashes of her bruised former self, Grace’s experience of the mental hospital pointed me to my current WIP, itself in need of renewal having been neglected since I completed the fast first draft almost three months ago.
The programme of resettling longstay psychiatric patients into the community that peaked in Britain in the 1990s has had a bad press, undeservedly in my opinion, and, while in my embryo novel on the subject things don’t run smoothly, I wanted to acknowledge how liberating it has been for some people in this week’s flash:
“Ooh, it’s a dinky house!”
Janice had learnt to expect the unexpected in social work. “You mean a Wendy house?”
Matty fixed her gaze on the ceiling rose. Was it the voice that insisted she was a princess, the voice only she could hear?
“I know it’s small, but could you imagine living here?”
Matty giggled. Janice sighed. Perhaps the psychiatrists were right, perhaps Matty was too old, too institutionalised to move on.
“It’ll feel more homely with a few ornaments and pictures,” Janice persisted.
Matty’s eyes brimmed with tears. “You mean it? I could have my own home?”
Thanks for reading. I look forward to your feedback whether you feel this works or not.