Pride Life Magazine - - CONTENTS -

We talk to au­thor and play­wright Jonathan Har­vey

Uli Le­nart: So, novel num­ber five, con­grat­u­la­tions! The His­tory of Us fol­lows three child­hood friends who know each other from Liver­pool in the mid-80s, to their adult lives in 90s and post-mil­len­nium Lon­don. What do peo­ple have in store for them with this lat­est book?

Jonathan Har­vey: A few laughs, a few tears. It’s a book about friend­ship and how friend­ships evolve over thirty years, fol­low­ing the char­ac­ters from their teenage years to the present day. I’ve thought a lot about peo­ple I’ve known through my life who I’ve lost touch with and then met up with again. Those prom­ises that you make in child­hood that are often never ful­filled, and the hopes and as­pi­ra­tions that you have when you are a kid that you never al­ways achieve. So it’s about stuff like that.

UL: So let’s talk a lit­tle about each of the main char­ac­ters, star­ing with Kath­leen.

JH: Kath­leen is sort of the fol­lower in the pack, doesn’t have that much con­fi­dence re­ally and she’s a bit ob­sessed with her friend Adam. Her mum has van­ished from her life; she’s be­ing brought up by her nan. Her dad’s in prison, but the eu­phemism is that he’s on the oil rigs. And she doesn’t re­ally have that much get-up-and-go re­ally, whereas the other two have quite lofty am­bi­tions, where her am­bi­tion is to be an em­balmer, which ac­tu­ally she never ends up be­ing, but I sup­pose it’s quite a prac­ti­cal thing. And she’s got a big nose. UL: And Adam…

JH: Adam, I don’t know where I got this from, [laughs] he’s the lit­tle gay one who, when we first meet him, is in the church na­tiv­ity play and has dreams to be a writer, and he be­comes a writer. He writes quite a dread­ful play when he is older based on what hap­pens to them as kids and they get a pro­duc­tion in Lon­don but it’s not very good, and his dreams sort of fade and die. In the present day he’s a celebrity hair­dresser’s agent and he’s liv­ing with a bloke and they’ve just adopted a small child. UL: And fi­nally, of the trio, Jo­ce­lyn… JH: Jo­ce­lyn’s from a Sierra Leonean fam­ily, she’s be­ing brought up in Liver­pool but they are a bit dif­fer­ent from the other peo­ple on the street be­cause she goes to a posh pri­vate school and she doesn’t re­ally have a Liver­pool ac­cent. She’s got a beau­ti­ful voice, hence be­ing in the church choir and rather scan­dalously cast as Mary in the na­tiv­ity play be­cause the lo­cal white peo­ple don’t think that hav­ing a black Mary is a very good idea. As she gets older var­i­ous things hap­pen to her, she be­comes a Page Three Girl, has a bit of a crap record out and then ends up be­ing a pro­fes­sional rent-a-gob. The book sort of opens with her hav­ing died. She’s, we think, com­mit­ted sui­cide. It’s about the other two friend’s meet­ing at her fu­neral, and flash­ing back over all three lives. She was quite a fig­ure of hate in the present day so we don’t re­ally know has she thrown her­self off Trel­lick Tower, al­legedly, or was she pushed? UL: And therein lies the in­trigue… JH: Ex­actly.

UL: We have to talk a lit­tle about my favourite char­ac­ter in the novel, Kath­leen’s nan.

JH: [laughs] Well, I was very close to my nan grow­ing up so there is a lot of my nan in this char­ac­ter. My favourite story about my nan which I did put in the book is I often went to my nan’s for my tea. My nan gave me mint sauce with ev­ery­thing and one day she said, “I’ve got you a gor­geous lime mousse in the fridge” and I opened it and what was in­side but a Glade air­fresh­ener with lime gel in­side. Kath­leen’s nan is sort of quasi-re­li­gious, she’s got a set of re­li­gious plates with all the twelve dis­ci­ples on and when she serves the egg and chips you have to guess which dis­ci­ple is un­der­neath.

UL: There is a roam­ing nar­ra­to­rial per­spec­tive in the novel; the story told from the shift­ing view point of the dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters. Why did you make that de­ci­sion when you were writ­ing it?

JH: When I wrote my first book, which was about four years ago, I did it then and I just en­joyed that way of do­ing it so much and I un­der­stand writ­ing that way. I think I find it a bit more chal­leng­ing to write in a third person, I think I’d get con­fused about whose point of view is it. And I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in char­ac­ter and the reader is hope­fully see­ing other things and real­is­ing them be­fore the char­ac­ter has them­selves. Kath­leen re­ally fan­cies Adam when they are fif­teen and think he’s just de­light­ful be­cause he talks about make-up and mu­si­cal theatre and isn’t re­ally in­ter­ested in any other girls and he re­ally en­cour­ages her when she fan­cies the boy at school and he’s more than happy to join in in fol­low­ing him around ev­ery­where so the reader re­alises he’s gay but she doesn’t. It’s a big shock to her when she finds out; you can have some fun in what the char­ac­ter doesn’t re­alise.

UL: I love the ten­sion be­tween com­edy and tragedy in the novel. Is that a tricky balance to get right?

JH: That’s my modus operandi re­ally; that’s what I do. There is al­ways a comic vein. If I was to de­scribe that book it all sounds very dark but ob­vi­ously it is a good laugh read­ing it, but I do think no mat­ter how dark things get you do al­ways have a bit of a laugh at the same time.

“I do think no mat­ter how dark things get you do al­ways have a bit of a laugh at the same time”


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