As you know, my author interviews feature stories of people who’ve made brave journeys around the world or expatriated themselves, as well as Greek fiction/non-fiction. Today I feature Nene Davies whose book, “Distance” I have recently completed. She also featured on my League of Expat Writers.
Review copy of book provided free of charge by the author.
Distance is about one family’s decision to uproot themselves from their home country of Wales to Australia. It is a brave novel that goes beyond sunshine and barbies and looks at the harsh reality of the decision making process of making this step which so many people dream of.
Nene: I am aware that you’re Welsh and have immigrated to Australia.Even though “Distance” is a novel, how much of it mirrors your own reality?
Well it’s true that we emigrated to Australiafrom Walesin 2002 and ‘Distance’ is loosely based on our experiences. However, I think if I had just written what happened with us, the book would have been far too dull! I liked the idea of taking our story and ramping it up with all the ‘what ifs.’ Thankfully our journey was a lot less fraught with difficulties than my fictional family, but I feel sure that things don’t always go according to plan!
Distance examines in detail the conflicting family emotions when one is making a momentous decision to uproot the whole family for a different life. You successfully go into detail about the main character, Isobel’s struggles with her mother and the reader finds oneself really empathising with Isobel.
Was the experience with your own mother just as harrowing? Was she really so distant and cruel? Where do you think these emotions sprang from?
When I told my Mum that we wanted to emigrate, she was shocked and quite worried, to be honest. I think that in Mum’s mind, when people went to Australia, you never saw them again and though we begged her to come with us, Australia was just too remote and too far away for her to even contemplate. However, she did come on holiday. Four times. And she absolutely loved it! Sadly, before we could organise for Mum to join us permanently, she became ill and last year, she passed away. So in short – my Mum was lovely and not at all like Nana Helen in ‘Distance.’ When I was writing the character of Nana Helen, I tried to imagine what it would be like if Mum hadn’t been who she was – again, I thought what if..?
The book is cleverly entitled Distance but I think it refers not only to the geographical distance, but also the growing emotional distance between family.
How hard for you was this book to write if it is very similar to your own experiences? Did your family support the book writing process and like the way they were (fictionally) portrayed?
My family have been fantastic. They have loved the whole process and encouraged me every step of the way. I consulted with them throughout the writing of the book and everyone was just amazing. I was keen for Mum to be happy with how I was portraying the grandmother in the story and I’m so glad that I was able to discuss the novel with her, before she became too poorly. When I had completed the first draft, I read big chunks of the manuscript out loud to Mum, in her nursing home and she was so supportive the whole way through. I’m just so sad that she died before the book was published.
Distance is a brave book with a feel good ending. I would recommend it to anyone contemplating the complexities of changing their lives for good in order to know that you’re not alone in this process…and that it’s ultimately OK to do what you think is good for yourself and your family, and to know there will always be people who won’t approve.
Nene Davies’s cleverly crafted words help us empathise with the main protagonist.
Thanks, Nene, for allowing me the opportunity to review Distance and interview you.
Will there be a follow up about Isobel and her family? You ended “Distance” on such a high note that you’ve left it open for a follow up. Do let us know!
Yes, there will be more from the Richardsons! I have started on the sequel, which has the working title of Further.