Writing as a child can mean writing when we were children – which I did a lot, although unfortunately apart from a book of poems, none remains except a science fiction novella called ‘Isabork’. I loved English lessons and homework if it was creative, but as I progressed through school, writing creatively became less and writing about other people’s writing became more. Writing as a child can also mean writing as if you were a child, and I have done that in my three short novels for reluctant readers. The characters relating the story were young people aged about fourteen.
Writing as a child in a novel not necessarily for children is more difficult than it sounds. I guess whens Harper Lee wrote ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ although Scout tells the story, she doesn’t necessarily tell it as a six year old, although it is from the child’s point of view and the adult never intrudes. I started writing my version of a favourite book I had as a small girl which I have since lost and forgotten the name of it or the author. My lost book was about a young girl who I think was living with or staying with grandparents, near or in a lighthouse. There are all sorts of adventures and although it was written for children younger than ten I would say, it was the first book I read when someone who seemed to be a ‘goodie’ turned out to be a ‘baddie’ and fell to his death from a cliff. As you can imagine it made a great impression on me. That sense of betrayal, disappointment, feeling as if you were duped, and a sense of loss and bereavement. Using the broadest of outlines from the old book, I am writing my own story; I don’t believe it’s plagiarising because I can barely remember any of the characters except the girl, the person who betrayed her trust and maybe a grandparent, and I have no real memory of the action apart from it involving smugglers.
So writing as a child… I’m not finding it easy, I have to be superly conscious of my character all the time, when writing as an adult I can more easily become that person. I have set in the 1950’s because i really have no knowledge of young children these days, and modern technology would make it a completely different story. I’d written a coupe of chapters when I began to read a novel by an author I didn’t know, which I think caught my attention somewhere – in a bookshop, in a review, I can’t remember, but I bought it some time ago and have only just started reading it.
The book is called ‘A Kind of Vanishing’ by Lesley Thomson; she has written other books but I’ve never heard of her until now – but I will be reading a lot more of her work when I finish this one! This one was her first, published in 2010, and since then she’s written nine others so I am very excited to have found an author with an untapped collection! ‘A Kind of Vanishing’ is about the disappearance of a nine year old girl, Alice, who was out playing with her slightly younger friend Eleanor. I was going to share the Amazon blurb but I’m enjoying the story so much that I don’t want to spoil any surprises for me – or for you.
The book begins with Eleanor and Alice playing together, told from Eleanor’s point of view. It is utterly convincing and believable, as it’s clear that the two young girls have been forced into a friendship when Eleanor’s family come down from London to their summer home and she is rather on her own as her older brother and sister don’t really want to play with her. Alice is the only child of a local family and is drafted in as a friend. While playing hide and seek Alice disappears; Eleanor is such an imaginative child, sometimes living in an imaginary world of her own, that her perspective is not always believable – but we readers only gradually begin to realise this.
The narrative goes back to when they first met, and then their rather disastrous relationship, neither having the least clue about the other and with nothing in common. I was very involved and engaged with Eleanor; I was an imaginative child always having adventures in my head and thinking impossible things about what and who I observed. Unlike Eleanor I had a very stable and uncomplicated home and family, but the way Thomson writes about her life makes it so easy to believe and become drawn into. We learn about Eleanor’s parents and their complicated lives, but it’s all at a distance, because Eleanor imagines and pretends so much.
Unexpectedly (for me) the story changes and becomes from Alice’s point of view, and the annoying and sly girl we met through Eleanor suddenly becomes a very different child with her own worries and insecurities. The way these two characters are written about, and become alive makes me breathless with admiration for the writer – but I won’t go further so as not to spoil your reactions to them and the writing. It;’s not just the characters but the beautiful descriptive writing which is woven in, the locations (all from a child’s height view) are so vivid I could almost smell the warm countryside and the dusty lanes and brambly hedgerows. The house where Eleanor lives, contrasted with Alice’s home almost springs up before my eyes, first seeing it with fond familiarity by Eleanor, then with disbelief and almost shock by Alice.
I can’t imagine which way the plot is going, and I won’t speculate, but I am absolutely hooked, and really wish I could write as well as Thomson does!