A long mar­riage is one of the most com­mon re­la­tion­ships but also one of the most ex­tra­or­di­nary. I ask my­self, how do two peo­ple stay mar­ried?’

Author Jane Rogers ex­plores the mys­tery of en­dur­ing love

The Herald - Arts - - BOOKS -

is very driven and can be very self­ish, but I don’t em­pathise with one over the other,” replies the author, who teaches on the MA Writ­ing course at Sh­effield Hal­lam Univer­sity and edited OUP’s Good Fic­tion Guide. “When you’re writ­ing a char­ac­ter and get­ting into their head, you em­pathise to­tally with them. One of the aims of this book was re­ally to show both sides of this mar­riage, not to favour one over the other. I needed to ex­plore it from the male and fe­male side, par­tic­u­larly the power strug­gle when both sides are evenly matched.”

Is it based on her own mar­riage? “It’s not au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal,” she replies. “Char­ac­ters are drawn from some peo­ple I know and bits are as­pects of my­self I have taken to the ex­treme in or­der to un­der­stand them.

“In that sense I think writ­ing is like act­ing. A writer will in­habit a char­ac­ter and will push to learn what she can.”

Ex­plor­ing the re­versed gen­der roles was a de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sion: a woman, she says, is judged more harshly if she’s am­bi­tious and fol­low­ing a ca­reer.

Even her chil­dren are crit­i­cal of Eleanor. It’s a com­ment on the fact that since she and her hus­band were young par­ents in the 1980s, lit­tle has changed for work­ing moth­ers – or in­deed for house hus­bands.

“A woman is judged more harshly if she ex­hibits those male qual­i­ties and we are also judge a man for choos­ing to stay at home with the chil­dren. We’re very, very un­fair. In the years be­tween our two fe­male prime min­is­ters, noth­ing has changed and the glass ceil­ing still ex­ists. Men still have the more well-paid, pow­er­ful jobs than women.”

Is Con­rad and Eleanor’s a typ­i­cal mod­ern mar­riage? “There’s no such thing,” re­torts Rogers. “One of the rea­sons I wanted to write about a long mar­riage is that it’s one of the most com­mon re­la­tion­ships but also one of the most ex­tra­or­di­nary. I ask my­self, how do two peo­ple stay mar­ried?

“I’m in­ter­ested in how over 20, 30, 40 years we move through love to like to ir­ri­ta­tion and real ha­tred, and hope­fully back again. It shifts through all the emo­tions in big waves of change that over­take us.

“It is per­haps a rather un­fash­ion­able thing to write about now, but I do love read­ing about long mar­riages in the great nov­els like Lawrence’s The Rain­bow and Pa­trick White’s The Tree of Man.”

While her catalyc­tic open­ing is un­de­ni­ably ef­fec­tive, the process of ar­riv­ing at a sat­is­fac­tory con­clu­sion for this novel was more prob­lem­atic.

Rogers had aban­doned the novel (whose work­ing ti­tle was The Ex­per­i­ment) in 2004 when it was half­way through at around 40,000 words. Not for noth­ing does she de­scribe it as the “strange” book in her im­pres­sive canon of work.

“I had all the key char­ac­ters but I couldn’t move it for­ward,” she says. She went on to write the Man Booker Prize longlisted The Tes­ta­ment of Jessie Lamb, us­ing much of the sci­en­tific re­search she’d al­ready done for Con­rad and Eleanor. “I never went back to it; I just thought it was a book I’d never fin­ish.”

Scroll for­ward ten years to Jan­uary 2, 2014, and at the age of 61 she is in in­ten­sive care and “very sick” hav­ing

I am in­ter­ested in how, over 20, 30, 40 years, we move through love to like to ir­ri­ta­tion and real ha­tred, and hope­fully back again

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.