Although Alison Moore's latest novel Death and the Seaside was published on the first of this month, the launch party didn't take place till last Friday(12th), so that evening we drove over to Nottingham Waterstones for an evening of book-ish chat, nibbles and drinks. There we ran into quite a number of friends from Nottingham's writing community, several of whom we've met through Nottingham's bid for City of literature status, as well as, obviously, the star of the evening Alison Moore.
After a while for chatting and grazing the refreshments, the formal part of the event got underway with a reading from the second chapter of Death and the Seaside which introduces the main character, Bonnie Falls (if you've read the book, you'll know why that chapter, not the first). It's always interesting to hear an author read their own work, as they often place emphasis on a different word or phrase to my internal reading, and can throw a different light on the story. Hearing an early section of the book again, I was struck by how many seemingly unimportant things foreshadow events later in the story.
This was followed by a really interesting Q+A session. People are always interested to know about writers' habits, where and when they work, do they have a routine, a special notebook, but I was more engrossed in the questions revolving around the ideas that went into the novel itself.
Death and The Seaside is Moore's third novel; "a psychological thriller about life, art, and inescapable fate" being how I described it in my review. It started life while she was in the coastal town of Seaton and working on The Harvestman; a short story, again set by the seaside, about fear, and how fear can actually attract danger. So some of the themes that went on to be developed in Death and the Seaside were already present then, and even Seaton itself figures in the novel.
Responding to prompts from the audienece, Moore went on to talk about the wider role of 'the seaside' in European novels - how it's a place that characters arrive at when in crisis, or at a pivotal point in their lives; the story being resolved either by death in the sea, or, having come to a life-changing decision, the character then returns to their 'inland' life. It's all rather contrary to our every-day view of the seaside as a jolly place for summer holidays.
All of this gave me a lot of food for thought. Firstly as in my review of Death and the Seaside, I'd concentrated on psychological manipulation and living up (or down) to people's expectations, rather than seaside-related symbolism, and also because I'd recently read Elly Griffiths' crime novel The Crossing Places which references an Iron Age belief that the places where water and land met and merged - tidal flats, marshlands, bogs - were special zones at which the barrier between life and death was thin.
They may not all be relevant in this case but I'm really hoping I can make time to re-read Death and the Seaside soon, with these thoughts in mind.