Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A Kind Comment Received and a Bit about the Next Book

As a comment to my last posting ‘Orage’ wrote: “Garth,
I've finished reading ‘Institutionalised part 2’ and words fail me to express admiration! The book is absolutely riveting. Your minute description of the girl's garments when she's in the car was enough to make me sweaty all over.
You're so knowledgeable you could write an outstanding study for a university doctorate. But God forbid! Much better to leave us on tenterhooks waiting for part 3.”

I was about to reply with a comment of my own when I realised what a chance it presents to outline something of the book I'm presently working on - the in-betweeny volume, as I call it as a working title. So I thought I would paste up my reply as if a full-blown blog entry, pretty much in the style that I had begun writing it - so here goes:

Ah! Well, you see I already have a university doctorate, albeit something to do with cows losing their marbles. Thanks for the kind comments, it all helps keep me going. Anyone having gotten to the end of volume 2 would have got some flavour of the direction volume 3 will be headed when I get round to writing it (some small part of it is already completed to some degree - and perhaps as much as three-quarters of it exists already in my mind’s eye). First of all though I want to finish the book I'm working on as it is perhaps as much as two thirds completed on paper. It sort of fits in between volumes 2 and 3 - as I've said before – and covers the period in Lavinia's life when, while in conflict with her Guardian, she is taken under the wing of the woman she comes to call Aunt.

We follow step-by-step Lavinia's path as she is introduced, first to that woman's psychotherapist friend and then gradually to a life of increasingly restrictive discipline and the acceptance of corporal punishment by way of the strap and the cane. We see her persuaded to sign up, as a volunteer clinical research subject, to a project being run under the auspices of a private psychiatric hospital in that institution’s very secluded and very secure experimental psychology unit - itself embedded deep within the hospital's secure wing – where she is to join a small group of girls living in an environment that has been set up approximating to a private boarding school from a bygone age. It all sounds very cosy - all ‘jolly hockey sticks’ and midnight feasts, straight out of The Girl's Own Annual circa 1955 - and so she is completely unprepared for the strict discipline, mind-numbing tedium, demeaning treatment, corporal and psychological punishment and near constant humiliation that she encounters there. Little wonder then that she should seek to leave as soon as possible; but as we have seen in volume to leaving that particular research project is not such an easy option.

We also get a further glimpse into the previous life of one Meredith Hewson and gain insight into the works of a church-run charitable institution only vaguely alluded to in volume 2. Set up in the nineteenth century to care for ‘young women likely to drift into moral peril’ - its remit: to house, employ, keep secure and keep safe such ‘waifs’ from their own harm - vouchsafed beyond the scope of prying eyes and with a nefarious, if nebulous, connection to the aforementioned psychiatric hospital, its work continues today in much the same vein as it did then. Behind its austere portals, the runaways, the lost hopefuls, toil in penance to the Lord and are educated in equal measure - albeit within the limited scope deemed suitable for such girls by 19th-century values; parochial and scholastic discipline intermingle with hypocrisy and ambiguous motive.

Later some of the loose ends are tied up and gaps filled in when we learn something of what happened after young Lavinia made her bid for freedom after her psychological assessment as seen in volume 2. Finally we are given some insight into the mindset of a certain Ms Julia Soames as she prepares to receive back Susan Stringer from the research clinic for the summer months, before deciding - upon consultation with her psychotherapist acquaintance - that it might be advantageous for all concerned if young Susan was to pass the summer living under the care of a professional governess and her nursery-nurse assistant in the secluded country home of a certain titled woman in North Norfolk. And at this point we will of turned full circle and be set up for volume 3 with the necessity for flashbacks etc now negated.

Throughout, though, I'm cognisant of the need to try to avoid repetition as much as possible, in the manner that the work of another author was criticised in a comment appended to an earlier posting on this site. And therein lies the trial of course.


Anonymous said...

If your university doctorate was about mad cows, no wonder you got interested in medical ones afterwards :)
In volume 2 you took care to mention the name of the girl you were talking about, the story being thus easier to follow than in part 1.
My criticism of another writer has got absolutely nothing to do with you. In his case it's obviously to draw his story out. No such thing in yours: what would seem at first like a mere repetition turns out to subtly emphasize some new unsavoury detail.
Moreover your gushy energetic style stands in complete contrast with the situation you describe and adds to its despondency.
At least, that's how I feel.

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