Our writing group is expecting a guest this week: local author and poet Lucy English. I confess I hadn’t read anything by Lucy until this week when I scuttled down to our local library just in time to pick up a copy of Our Dancing Days. This is a short but satisfying read set in that period of the seventies when hippiedom was at its height. It’s evocative of its era without being overly nostalgic and convincingly conveys the highs and lows of rural life as a group of friends live out their dream in a damp and crumbling manor house in Norfolk. The characters are great. I particularly liked eternal (and maddening) schoolboy Don. I would like to have known a bit more about lumpy and ineffectual Helen and why she had sunk so low, but there was no denying she was a recognisable type. When the heroine Tessa visits the house many years afterwards we see how the dream came crashing down, but the ending has just the right note of peaceful resolution. On a dark winter’s evening this book had just the right balance of joyful escapism and grim reality and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Sarah Duncan is another local writer who, as my first writing teacher, has always been a source of inspiration. It’s a while now since I took her ten week writing course and I’m glad to see she is now blogging a lot of the memorable advice she gave us then. I especially like her ‘Lift Test’ and am hastily entering into conversations with my current cast of characters to see how they measure up. Sarah’s latest novel Single to Rome is out this week. It sounds like another good antidote to winter blues. I’d love to go to the launch party, but annoyingly it’s the night of Lucy’s visit.