Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide

Fam­ily drama

Writer and artist Juliet Bates’ sec­ond novel The Colours is set in North York­shire and ex­plores a mother and son re­la­tion­ship. She spoke to Yvette Hud­dle­ston.

- Arts · Books · France · North Yorkshire · Robin Hood · Caen · Aldbrough

When au­thor Juliet Bates sat down to write her sec­ond novel The Colours, she had a pretty clear idea of what she was aim­ing for.

“There were cer­tain things I knew I wanted to do,” says Bates. “And ac­tu­ally not much changed, while I was writ­ing, from the first thoughts I had about it.”

Now based in north­ern France where she lec­tures at the School of Art in Caen, Bates was born in Dar­ling­ton and grew up in the vil­lage of Ald­brough St John near Rich­mond – and from the out­set, she knew that the novel’s set­ting would be in North York­shire.

“It was quite a nos­tal­gic trip for me in some ways,” she says. “It was the coast that I was par­tic­u­larly drawn to – places like Whitby, Salt­burn, Scar­bor­ough and

Robin Hood’s Bay – and I wanted to ex­plore the land­scape of that area be­cause it suited the story I wanted to tell.”

The Colours is a sweep­ing fam­ily drama cov­er­ing a span of sev­eral decades of the 20th cen­tury from just be­fore the First World War right up to the Royal Wed­ding of Charles and Diana in 1981.

The novel’s main char­ac­ters are Ellen and her son Jack, born out of wed­lock in the 1920s. At a time when sin­gle moth­er­hood was so­cially un­ac­cept­able and de­spite be­ing put un­der pres­sure by the lo­cal pri­est to give up her son, Ellen de­ter­mines to raise Jack her­self – un­til she can no longer cope. Told from the per­spec­tive of the two pro­tag­o­nists, both of whom for dif­fer­ent rea­sons are slightly on the edge of so­ci­ety, the novel ex­plores their sep­a­rate and in­ter­twin­ing sto­ries.

“I knew that I wanted to write about two gen­er­a­tions of a fam­ily,” says Bates. “And to look at the way in which par­ents and chil­dren might make the same kind of mis­takes. That whole idea of his­tory re­peat­ing it­self within a fam­ily. I was also in­ter­ested in the idea of in­her­i­tance – of at­ti­tudes and ideas. How a par­ent may un­con­sciously give a child cer­tain view­points on the world.”

The im­agery and de­scrip­tions in the novel are strik­ing, closely ob­served and beau­ti­fully wrought. It is clear that Bates’ writ­ing has been in­flu­enced by her ca­reer as a visual arts aca­demic.

“I have been in art schools either as a stu­dent or lec­turer since I was 17, so I don’t know how else to write about things,” she says. “It is part of what I have done for the last 25 years. My job is all about look­ing at things so it is kind of sec­ond na­ture. I don’t think I could write in any other way.”

For the past 20 years, Bates has lived in Nor­mandy, so her de­scrip­tions of the York­shire coast are all based on mem­ory. It’s an im­pres­sive feat, the area clearly made a big im­pres­sion on her.

“I haven’t been back since I left, but I have many happy and vivid mem­o­ries of those places,” she says. She was hop­ing to visit when the book was pub­lished in April this year, but due to the coronaviru­s pan­demic, she has been un­able to. “I was look­ing for­ward to it, so that was a bit dis­ap­point­ing, but over­all my ex­pe­ri­ence of lock­down was quite pos­i­tive. It sort of sus­pended ev­ery­thing which was ac­tu­ally quite nice. I con­tin­ued my teach­ing on­line but I still had a lot of time to do my own writ­ing.”

Novel num­ber three is al­ready un­der way.

 ??  ?? NEW BOOK: Au­thor Juliet Bates whose lat­est novel The Colours is set in 20th cen­tury North York­shire.
NEW BOOK: Au­thor Juliet Bates whose lat­est novel The Colours is set in 20th cen­tury North York­shire.

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