A couple of things have brought the idea of resistance to my mind recently. First and foremost the ongoing downward course of the Trump administration, its depravities and outrages exhausting us daily. Also some internal questioning as to how we as authors are reacting to that and other issues: Are we catalysing them into our prose, or giving up trying, or putting our hands over our ears and saying “La, la, la, I can’t hear you”?
(This is not a blame game, btw. That is a huge “ask”.)
I’ve often wondered why even though my first novel came out five years ago it feels as if the reception of it is…not done. And this as I start into the edits on my second. But yes, I feel White Feathers is not done yet in the message it has to give to people right now.
This is because I have been thinking of it and describing it as Eva’s story, a romance and a tale of betrayal and war. It is all those things. From her point of view. But as this review gently wonders, what if I had told it from Christopher’s point of view, the other protagonist?
From his point of view, the story is framed very differently. It becomes not about betrayal, but about resistance. Resisting almost intolerable social pressure to commit an action one believes to be wrong. Resisting the authority of a man who invented the concentration camps even though such a stance risked social ostracism. Being disempowered and shamed by manipulative and powerful figures that did not think twice about sponsoring civilian unrest to achieve their aims. And then, trying to pull back some power and dignity, taking a huge risk to defy a military bully who treats people in a petty, abusive and cruel fashion. Resisting the easy path, even when you’re already badly traumatised and the idea scares you witless. That’s the narrative.
When my book came out, a national newspaper didn’t like that story of resistance, because their writer chastised me for having such a high-grade military man commit offences against subordinates – on the grounds that “a man of such high station” was not capable of committing such deeds!!! I don’t think the Irish commentariat was ready for, or comfortable with, any story that told of resistance in 2014. (They may even have detected the real event that inspired it.)
I was distressed at the piece, but in retrospect I should have flaunted that particular reprimand as a badge of pride, not of shame. It’s no disgrace not to tug my forelock tightly enough.
But now, with the Trump era in full swing, I invite any new readers (and those who have already read or listened, of course) to consider White Feathers a work that centres resistance. And to derive some hope that as Ford Madox Ford put it, “a man can stand up”. That our actions are not futile. That when we #resist, it has meaning and power. And I promise to continue writing works which have that resisting spirit at their very heart. Such as the one I am currently editing 🙂