Monday 16 October 2017

Yellow Room by Shelan Rodger @ShelanRodger @DomePress #BlogTour #YellowRoom

Haunted by a tragic childhood accident, Chala's whole life has been moulded by guilt and secrets. 
After the death of the stepfather she adored, Chala is thrown into turmoil once again. 
Volunteering in Kenya seems to offer an escape, and a way of re-evaluating her adult relationships, although violence and hardship simmer alongside its richness and beauty. 
The secrets of the Yellow Room are still with her and she can't run away forever...

Yellow Room by Shelan Rodger was published in paperback by Dome Press on 5 October 2017. I'm a huge fan of this author and originally read Yellow Room a few years ago.

Here's a snippet from my review;

"The opening chapter of Yellow Room left me breathless. It is shocking and unexpected and underpins the whole of Shelan Rodger's immaculately written story of dark family secrets and how they can shape a future.
The opening chapter of Yellow Room left me breathless. It is shocking and unexpected and underpins the whole of Shelan Rodger's immaculately written story of dark family secrets and how they can shape a future."

I'm really happy to welcome the author, Shelan Rodger here to Random Things today as part of the Blog Tour for Dome Press.  She's talking about the books that have inspired her in My Life In Books.

My Life In Books ~ Shelan Rodger

If my life were a library, you would wander in the childhood section past various titles by Dr Seuss and Lewis Carroll, past Arthur Ransome’s Swallow and Amazon series, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Gerald Durrell’s Rosy is My Relative, Richard Adam’s Watership Down.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird would mark the transition from childhood into adolescence and young adulthood: here you would find shelves stacked with titles, among others, by Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Federico Garcia Lorca, Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Aldous Huxley, Franz Kafka, John Fowles, Laurens Van Der Post, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, P.G Wodehouse – and poetry, lots of poetry!

Charles Baudelaire and Pablo Neruda were university soulmates, who are with me still. And your journey through the last 30 years of my library would be rambling, eclectic, chaotic – but joyful!

All of which makes the challenge of selecting just a handful of books that somehow say something about my life a little daunting. But fascinating too – it feels a bit like Desert Island Discs with books instead of tunes. I decided to give myself about one minute and just jot down the first books that came into my head without thinking. I invite you to try it! This was the list I scribbled:

The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell
The Magus, John Fowles
Uncle Fred in the Spring Time, PG Wodehoouse
Walkabout Thought, Cruden Rodger
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
West with the Night, Beryl Markham
The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon
Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
The Zanzibar Chest, Aidan Hartley

I stopped myself from scribbling any more, and then drew a censorial line half way through the list, which left me with 8 books to say something about here.

The Alexandria Quartet, which I read in my early twenties, was quite simply the book I would love to
have written. I grew up with a fascination around different perspectives and interpretations – no doubt partly as a result of living in different cultures (born in Africa, childhood in an aboriginal community on an Australian island, adolescence in the UK), so the whole notion of the same story told in different books from the perspective of the different characters absolutely blew me away.

Changing perspective was at the heart of what fascinated me too about The Magus, which I also read very young. I loved the play between fact and fiction and the idea that nothing is ever what it seems. I loved the eroticism too!

Uncle Fred in the Spring Time – well this could have been any number of the P.G. Wodehouse novels of course, but there was something deliciously quirky about this one which just had me in stitches the first time I read it and still does. I would definitely take this one with me to a desert island to help me keep laughing.
Just now I opened and the quote of the day is: “She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and forgotten to say ‘when’.” That says it all I think!

Walkabout Thought – this one is very personal and you won’t find it in print any more. It was a work of non-fiction by my father, which basically sums up a lifetime of unconventional thought. The title plays on the aboriginal tradition of going walkabout – a ritual act of
reconnecting and self-discovery alone in the wilderness of the Australian bush. I was very close to my father and my wanders through the holistic maze of his worldview simply make me feel grounded.

Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is a book that lingered with me long after I finished it. I loved the starkness and simplicity of its language and the almost transcendent way she enables you to engage with an appalling subject matter (the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl); how she manages to convey the horror but also a sense of redemption, something beautiful and uplifting from the very ashes of what happened. I am aware of something in my own writing that aspires to use language in a similar way. And I am also very sensitive to the attempt to create something transformative out of such negative subject matter, having been sexually abused as a child myself.

One of the things that fascinates me about The Unbearable Lightness of Being is that the first time I read it in my twenties I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about, but the second time I read it, in my forties, I responded completely differently. The search for identity and the way a sense of belonging can be bound up with place and culture, the serendipitous irrevocability of the choices we make, which end up creating our notion of who we are – these are all elements that haunt me and my writing. I even once designed a leadership workshop with the title borrowed from this book!

West with the Night, by Beryl Markham, is a significant book for me for a number of reasons. It is the memoir of a woman who grew up in Kenya, a country with which I have a strong emotional connection. (My father grew up and is buried there, my mother still lives there, and I have also lived there for some years.) Beryl Markham first succeeded as a horse trainer in a man’s world and then became the first woman in Kenya to get a commercial pilot’s licence. The title refers to the mind-boggling solo trip she did, piloting her tiny plane across the Atlantic from England and crash landing in Nova Scotia twenty-one and a half hours later. The writing is raw, evocative and lyrical, her love of Africa and passion for adventure shine, her achievements are fierce and brave, she broke boundaries in a man’s world without any pretense to feminism… and yet the woman, the real personality behind the words remain a mystery and rumours still abound that the book was actually ghost written by her third husband. I love the ambiguity of this extra layer that hangs around the writing – but regardless of who really wrote it, I admire both the ‘balls’ of the woman who flew solo across the Atlantic in 1936 and the power of the language that evokes her journey.

So, the last book in my censored list is a work of non-fiction called The Happiness Hypothesis, written by a psychologist who looks at ancient wisdom and philosophy through the lens of modern science and draws some fascinating conclusions about the human condition. It is a book I love to go back to. Every one of us is a rider on an elephant. You need to read the book to get under the skin of that relationship but it is certainly one that I identify with!

And it was the elephant in me, at the end of the day, who singled out those titles to talk about among the myriad of books that have been written or are yet to be written, which would all be in my library ‘had I but world enough, and time…

Shelan Rodger ~ October 2017

In the author's own words - taken from
Born in Nigeria, I grew up among an aboriginal community on the Tiwi Islands north of Australia, and moved to England at the age of eleven. After graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, I spent nine years in Argentina, followed by a chapter in the UK and then six years on flower farms in Kenya, before moving to Spain, where I live in an Andalucían village that was once a gold mine.
My professional career has revolved around international education and learning & development. My unprofessional career began at the age of nine with the unsolicited launch of ‘The Family Magazine’-  and has continued as quirkily ever since.
I care about tolerance, wilderness, and open doors.

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