Seni Glaister, author of the poignant and uplifting novel Growing Season, is on the blog today talking about some of the topics that inspired her book.
“So, you must be thinking of starting a family soon?”
Observing a confident young colleague bat the question away like an annoying wasp (and realising with a jolt just how little things have changed over the decades) planted the first seed in the tangled, knotty garden that became Growing Season.
I’ve long been fascinated (and horrified) by the way we are still expected to publicly account for our family planning. Of course the question might well land as intended: Idle, polite chat between people filling the time. But regardless of the intent, there is absolutely no way the interrogator can anticipate the impact those words might have. They could feel irrelevant at best or insensitive, sexist, intrusive, rude. At worst, they might land like a punch to the gut and re-open a wound that never gets a chance to heal.
And if you’ve had to answer the question one too many times? It might just feel like the last straw.
In Growing Season, Sam has gone past the last-straw moment and is trying to craft a life for herself in which she can move on while, quite separately, processing her upset through privately therapeutic outpourings of anger. Her husband looks like he’s processing nothing but that’s just his own way of coping. He’s tucked it all away deep in his brain, alongside other information he doesn’t know what to do with. Neither wants to appear weak to the other, so they don’t talk about it.
I am not sure that any of the main characters in Growing Season are immediately likeable but I hope that as you begin to understand them, you can start to understand their responses. As characters they certainly grow and get an opportunity to learn from each other, which is all any of us can hope for. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to respond to trauma but I was determined to write characters that responded to their circumstances in the only way they knew how. In Sam and Diana’s case they each chose to create a new, more palatable, truth for themselves and then, gradually, they learnt to come to terms with other versions too.
In real life or in fiction, listening to a person’s backstory – where they’ve come from, the unique experiences that have shaped them as an individual, the many ways they’ve had to adapt to cope can allow you to begin to understand why they are the way they are. You don’t have to like them, you certainly don’t have to agree with them, but most people deserve the opportunity to be heard. And I also explore the other issues I can’t quite let go of: anxiety, loneliness, growing older, living in the moment and appreciating the small things handed out freely by nature. Yes, of course, there is plenty of nature in Growing Season though some of you will be relieved to hear there are substantially less potatoes…