Sunday 14 October 2018

A Remedy For All Things by Jan Fortune @JanFortuneWrite #MyLifeInBooks @BultiauwBooks

What if you began to dream someone else’s life?
And what if this stranger was dreaming yours? 
Belief is Catherine's gift, or it was once. Now, in her thirties, Catherine knows what she has lost and what she has survived When she arrives in Budapest in winter 1993 to begin researching a novel on the poet, Attila József, she starts dreaming the life of a woman imprisoned after the 1956 Uprising. More disconcertingly, this woma is dreaming her life in turn. Obsessed with uncovering the facts, Catherine discovers that Selene lived through the persecution of Jews in Hungary during WW2, and that Selene believed Attila József to be the father of her daughter, despite the fact that József committed suicide eighteen years before the child was born. How do these three lives fit together?

A Remedy For All Things by Jan Fortune was published by Liquorice Fish Books on 5 October 2018

History and magical realism collide in Jan Fortune’s latest novel.
Liquorice Fish Books is publishing Jan Fortune’s A Remedy for All Things, a disquieting and compelling exploration of what we mean by identity and of how the personal and the political collide.
"Last night I dreamed the novel. Even though I'd finished it I was still immersed in it."- Diane Woodrow

Praise for Jan Fortune 
• 'I found it absorbing. I loved the way the author portrays the intense, almost disturbing friendship between Cassie and Miriam.' Pamela Scott, The Booklovers Boudoir 
• 'A thoroughly absorbing and intelligent read. It is a book of light and shade which evokes the world of two teenage girls in the 1970's perfectly.' Stephanie Percival 
• 'WOW, what a story! It is powerful and delivered in the most taut and well crafted prose possible, a reminder or Fortune's background as a poet.’ Beck Chadfield

I'm delighted to welcome author Jan Fortune here to Random Things today, she's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life in Books.

My Life In Books - Jan Fortune

Choosing 12 books that span my life, books that evoke memories or that have influenced on my writing, is aagony. Only 12? Well here goes:

I was a voracious reader from the age of 4, taken weekly to Middlesbrough Central Library by my grandfather, a Trade Union organiser and believer in education. I read this book when I was 11, given to me by the most important friend of those formative years from 11-18. Elizabeth Borton de Trevino's novel is set in Moorish Spain. 

It's a grand romantic tale in a tiny novel, charting the partly historical, partly mythologised life of the Berber daughter of the Taifa of Toledo in the 11th century. What we do know is that this Muslim princess became a Christian saint. Trevino adds a sister based on another larger than life princess and an unrequited lover, Ben Haddaj of Zaragoza, who has disappeared from history.
It's a fabulous story of magic, faith, romance and cultural interchange. The book was the touchstone of a friendship that defined my growing up, the fictionalised version of which runs through my own Casilda Trilogy.

In my teens I acquired the habit of reading everything that aauthor had written from Daphne du Maurier to Tolstoy with many stops between. Of course, aa Yorkshire girl, the Brontës featured in this panoply. I wanted to be Emily, but was always more Charlotte and Jane Eyre was the book I carried around with me.

What stays with me is not only the language and the scope of the book, but the fiery sense of justice that burns at its core. I also think it's one of the greatest examples of beautiful story architecture; it's full of foreshadowing and echoes resonate between themes. And Jane, who seems plain and put upon, has an extraordinary strength.

I wasn't a great fan of sci-fi in my teens, but I joined a youth club nominally attached to a church but with a more political bent. In the late 70s and with a good component of philosophy students, there was aalternative vibe. And Le Guin's utopian vision in The Dispossessedwas our signature book.

In it a physicist flees the anarchist utopia of his own planet to find more academic freedom elsewhere, but finds instead an unstable dystopia. It's a brilliant exploration of anthropology, philosophy and economics, and of how individuals navigate institutions and societies. It's a theme I return to in my own writing, though not in a sci-fi setting. And, remarkably, utopian fiction is what my oldest son did his PhD thesis in so this book has stayed with me.

I've loved poetry forever and a friend introduced me to Cummings in my first weeks studying theology at Cambridge.  I love his linguistic inventiveness, his pressure on forand the rapid movements from poignancy to wit. I love that he is acomplete maverick with a wholly distinctive voice; it's something I aspire to aa writer and for my characters.

At Cambridge I read lots of Modernist writers and also discovered feminism. Woolf's A Room of One's Own essay had agreat impact but I devoured her novels and particularly Orlando

It's a huge novel in which the protagonist lives through centuries and changes gender. I remain in awe of its scope, its linguistic and sensory richness and its ambition. It's strange and genre-defying, yet also empathic. In addition to using stream of consciousness, Woolf challenges notions of reality and perception. This is something vital to me in A Remedyfor All Thingsand the novel that precedes it, This is the End of the Story. 

In my early twenties I read everything by de Beauvoir and Sartre, novels, philosophy, feminist theory and memoirs... The Prime of Life charts de Beauvoir’s years in Paris from the late Twenties to mid Forties. It's full of names and places and witnesses to an exciting intellectual life that I still find inspiring.

I started my family in my twenties and with four children, all educated at home, children's literature became a huge part of my life. From picture books to young adult novels we read amazing works, but it's The Little Prince that I return to. It is fierce and funny in its defence of imagination and integrity. It is an exquisitely sustained metaphor about love and relationships and it challenges how we perceive things:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

I seem to have a penchant for Canadian writers (and interestingly, now have a Canadian daughter-in-law). I've been reading Margaret Atwood since my early twenties and never been disappointed in a story, essay or novel, but this is the one that resonates most.

It's an early novel that deals with searching for a lost father in a remote place. The protagonist dives into an interior world of memory and emotion that takes her to the brink of sanity. Issues of feminism, identity and belonging run through it, together with pressure on language and questions of perception. They are themes I continue to explore and a line from the last chapter has always stayed with me.
This above all, to refuse to be a victim. Unless I can do that I can do nothing.

Staying with Canadian authors, Ondaatje is another I find inspiring. At the heart of every novel is a central image and aquestion that arises from it – in this he follows writers like Joyce and Faulkner; a whole novel emerging from a single seed. I love this and I also love his rich description, attention to all the senses and precise, layered characterisations.

In the Skin of a Lion is the prequel to The English Patient and focusses on Patrick, mentioned in the better-known novel and step father to Hanna, who nurses the patient. Patrick is one of the most intriguing, empathic characters I've ever met in the pages of a book.

An extraordinary poet who died too early, Wright is politically engaged, witty, humane and visual. Her work has exceptional range, from open forand experimental to narrative; from verse drama to filmic, lyrical gems. 

Her poem ‘More Blues and the Abstract Truth’ is my stand-out favourite amongst many brilliant pieces.

What makes one person support, or even live out the fantasy life of another? This is a question that fascinates me and which I explore at length in This is the End of the Story,the book before A Remedy for All ThingsIt also runs through Don Quixote. Quixote is a man on a mission of justice whatever the personal costs and irrespective of success or failure. Sancho, on the other hand, fails to steer Quixote away from trouble, but continues to believe in him. 

Perhaps the first modern novel, the fool at its heart is a figure who recurs in many novels and who challenges our perception of the world:
When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!

I met Adam on a writing course I was teaching at Ty Newydd in Wales. A couple of months later he came on a course I was teaching at Ty’n y Coed near Conwy. Vitus Dreams was beginning and it hooked me; a brave, poignant, witty novel dealing with big themes of grief, loss, language and love. It uses stream of consciousness, lyrical passages, graphic elements, and is highly self-reflexive.

An explorer dreams of a sea and a land beyond that appears on no map.
A naval officer becomes lost inside maps of his own making, his wife lost inside her pleas that someone should search forher husband.
And, aa singer struggles to make sense of the ordinary things around her, a hitman is trapped in an endless bid to escape.
Meanwhile, two complete strangers plod through their day-to-day lives as they pour their hearts into writing a novel — but which one is the fictional character and which the author?
An ever-shifting kaleidoscope, by turns moving and funny, intense and tender, Vitus Dreams shatters assumptions about the real and the concrete, leaving us to rely on instinct and the people around us, if they exist.

Oh, and did I mention? -- Adam and I got married two years ago.

Jan Fortune - October 2018 

Poet and novelist Jan Fortune is the founder of Cinnamon Press. 
Following her poetry collections, Stale Bread and Miracles, Slate Voices: Cwmorthin and Turn/Return, her fifth novel This Is The End Of The Story was released in 2017. 
A respected editor and passionate writing mentor, Jan lives in the wild wet foothills of the Moelwyns in North Wales, beneath the abandoned slate village of Cwmorthin. 

Find Jan online: 

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