READ­ING ROOM:

en­joy a Great Read from An­stey Har­ris and fab­u­lous fic­tion for the hol­i­day sea­son

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents - by An­stey Har­ris, Si­mon & Schuster

There’s some­thing uni­ver­sal about Grace Ather­ton, the hero­ine of this soul­ful ro­mance. Even if you don’t iden­tify with Grace’s cir­cum­stances, it’s im­pos­si­ble not to sym­pa­thise with her. Grace quickly be­comes the reader’s friend. We don’t judge her and we des­per­ately want her to work it all out. The novel opens with an ex­tra­or­di­nary scene. Grace is with her boyfriend, David, at a con­cert in Paris. The tick­ets were a sur­prise gift from him, to hear Corelli’s La Fo­lia, her favourite piece of mu­sic, at La Con­ser­va­toire. Grace is a one-time cel­list who now makes vi­o­lins and mu­sic is her pas­sion. Her other love is David. The cou­ple has been to­gether eight years but still the ro­mance is all-con­sum­ing. “David can bring things to my life that I don’t even @ know are miss­ing,” she says.

Then, on their way home on the Metro, David mirac­u­lously saves a preg­nant woman who has fallen on the tracks and just man­ages to pull her to safety with heart-stop­ping sec­onds to spare. He is de­clared a mys­tery hero by the me­dia with a video posted show­ing both David and Grace. “Any­one could tell we are a cou­ple. Even his wife. Even his chil­dren.”

Ah … so Grace is David’s mis­tress we learn, and then the story re­ally starts. Grace lives in Eng­land, he in Stras­bourg, An­stey Har­ris, 53, was born in an “Un­mar­ried Moth­ers’ Home” and, af­ter be­ing adopted, was raised in south-east Eng­land. Her child­hood “was one long search for dogs: it is fair to say I was ob­sessed ... I cur­rently live in the town I grew up in – with my hus­band and two dogs (dreams can come true).” An­stey is a univer­sity lec­turer in cre­ative writ­ing and says “great nov­els talk with­out reser­va­tion about emo­tion but – at the same time – do not re­volve around the writer’s ego. Anything I’ve ever tried to write to set­tle a per­sonal score, or rep­re­sent some side of me I feel is un­der­val­ued, has been a dis­as­ter.” and their gen­tle af­fair is car­ried out in his apart­ment in Paris. Nat­u­rally, Grace be­lieves they will be to­gether. “Even­tu­ally when we have a fam­ily of our own, this trickle of time will be­come a tor­rent. David will move in here, we will have spare bed­rooms for his older chil­dren,” she muses.

Slowly and with in­cred­i­ble fi­nesse, au­thor An­stey Har­ris peels back the lay­ers and we see this adul­terer in a new light. The twists are sur­pris­ing, the writ­ing ex­quis­ite, set against a back­drop of Grace’s world of mu­sic.

“The idea of writ­ing about a mis­tress came to me some years ago,” An­stey tells The Weekly. “I wanted to ex­plore the rea­sons that some people set­tle for that – very second best – role. I wanted to write a char­ac­ter that, with­out con­don­ing her be­hav­iour, we can sym­pa­thise with even though we feel we shouldn’t.”

David’s char­ac­ter is based on a “charm­ing but un­faith­ful boyfriend ...

I’d met him when he was in the last throes of a dy­ing re­la­tion­ship and for­got to pay heed to the adage ‘be care­ful how you get them be­cause that’s how you’ll lose them,’” she adds.

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