Welcome Alison Booth!
Alison Booth was born in Melbourne and brought up in Sydney, and spent over two decades studying, living and working in the UK before returning to Australia in 2002. Married with two grownup daughters, she is a professor at the Australian National University and an ANU Public Policy Fellow.
Alison’s first novel, Stillwater Creek, was published in January 2010, and was followed in 2011 by The Indigo Sky and in 2012 by A Distant Land. These three novels, published by Random House Australia, have become known as The Jingera Trilogy for their shared locale.
I invited Alison to write about her latest release, A Distant Land today and you can expect my review of the novel later today.
Over to you Alison…
Thanks for the invitation to write a guest blog. Book’d Out is doing a great job in bringing readers and writers together, and I’m really happy you asked me to write about my recent novel, A Distant Land.
Set in 1971, the book follows the stories of Zidra Vincent and Jim Cadwallader, who’ve grown up together in the coastal town of Jingera. Although loving each other for years, they’ve never revealed their feelings, and before they get a chance to do so, other events impinge on their lives.
And we all know that sometimes a single moment can change you forever.
Jim, working overseas as a war correspondent, is captured by guerrillas. “As he struggles into a sitting position, he sees on the lip of the hollow three pairs of feet. Three pairs of feet wearing sandals fashioned from rubber tyres and inner tubes. Slowly he raises his eyes and sees three rifle barrels. Holding the rifles are three soldiers… The sharp pang of regret Jim feels is like a bullet piercing his chest.”
Zidra, a Sydney-based journalist, gets caught up in a separate intrigue. Covering an anti-war demonstration one day, she sees the “light reflecting off a telephoto lens on an expensive-looking camera. A rival newspaper, she thought, although she didn’t recognize the man holding it. He was of average height with an unremarkable face: the nose was snub, cheekbones appeared absent, and his hair so nondescript that you’d only describe it as mousy if you were being kind. A Mr Ordinary, whom she would never have noticed if it hadn’t been for that shaft of sunlight glinting off his lens.” A Mr Ordinary, whose activities will threaten the happiness of Zidra’s friend Lorna.
Why did I set the novel in 1971? (That’s history, isn’t it? Well, maybe… but I was alive then, and still feel young at heart!) When Australia entered the Vietnam War – and our engagement there was to last a decade until 1972 – I was just a girl. The events of that time had a profound effect on my generation. Each day we saw television footage of the war and of massacres on both sides. We saw – and some of us participated in – the protest marches against the war and against conscription. And we discovered the extraordinary surveillance of Australian people by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. As Jim says in A Distant Land, we felt – as generations before and after have felt – that: “War made monsters and victims out of us all.”
Once I’d decided to set A Distant Land in 1971, it was inevitable that the struggles of the time would filter into the novel. Indeed, I sometimes think my subconscious might have been looking for years for an outlet, and it was quite natural that the events of the early 1970s should become an integral part of the plot. And although I’d always intended A Distant Land to be written as a love story, it rapidly evolved into a thriller as well. The main characters became caught up in the times, just as many Australians did. Every town had someone affected, directly or indirectly, by that war.
Although the novel’s plots weave their way through the tumultuous events of 1971, the story remains overwhelmingly one of abiding love. Of the love of Jim and Zidra for each other. Of the long-standing friendship between Zidra and her friend Lorna. Of the deep affection Zidra feels for her parents, captured in the moment she watches the pantomime of her parents preparing for a trip to town. “The moment concentrated, it hardened, it passed. The image crystallized into a structure that Zidra would carry with her all her life. It had meaning; it had clarity. The stability of her parents’ marriage and, at the same time, the independence of each – this was what she wanted…”
But will Jim’s capture prevent her attaining such happiness? Read on…
Some free chapters of A Distant Land are available online. To view these, click visit Random House and click for the free sample.
Do leave a message if you’d like to. One of the joys of being a writer is in the opportunity to connect with readers, and I would love to hear from you.
You can also learn more about Alison
The Jingera Trilogy is Available to Purchase