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Alice Alone: Meeting My Younger Self

I started to write ‘Alice Alone’ when I was twenty-five and working as a freelance journalist in Buenos Aires.  It felt daring – and exposing! – to be trying my hand at fiction, so I deliberately created characters and a situation as far removed from my ‘real’ life as possible.  And that is how Alice and her husband, Peter, both in their 50s – old fogies to my then young eyes – were born. I put them in a house in north London, and threw them into a marriage crisis triggered by the departure of their youngest child from the family nest.  With no offspring around, the ugly truth of their empty shell of a relationship is laid bare.  Trapped by the situation and her own loneliness, Alice takes some shocking steps in her quest to rediscover happiness.

Authors don’t re-read their books, at least not any that I have come across.  So, when I picked up ‘Alice Alone’ to see what edits might be required for a modern audience, it really was thirty-five years since my eyes had travelled over my own words.  And wow, was it weird – like going back in time and meeting someone you used to know, but had half forgotten.  A someone who sounded so confident!  A someone who thought she knew stuff!  What an upstart!  But then, every word was familiar too, as were the memories they evoked.  Life in Argentina – there was a lot to remember, including the desperate youthful desire to prove myself, by writing a story that would ring true, while keeping the reader guessing…

From that point of view, my aims – during the course of producing eighteen more books – have remained the same.  The stories we tell matter.  They are both a reflection of the world we live in and a help towards understanding that world.  A whippersnapper of a novelist I might have been, but the story of ‘Alice Alone’ contains insights that gave the older me a retrospective shiver of pride.  Twenty-five, I might have been, freshly married, naïve, with the world at my feet, but I was already the observer each novelist has to be: taking everything in and trying to make sense of it.

The older me may be wiser, but she is also warier than the one who wrote about Alice.  There is a fearlessness that goes with naivety.  Thirty-five years ago, I thought little about pitfalls, literary or otherwise.  I just sat down and typed out a story.  It had a beginning, a middle, and an end, with twists to keep the reader guessing.  How simple.  How easy.  How enviable.

Amanda Brookfield

February 2023

You can start reading Amanda’s book Alice Alone here: 🇬🇧 🇺🇸

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